Of course, many different people wanted Obama to say many different things, depending on their vested interests. At the Houma Courier in Lousiana, the hometown paper for many along the state’s Gulf Coast who depend on the oil and gas industry for their livelihood, the reaction to the speech focused on the one thing that affects stakeholders the most: jobs. The Courier’s main story on the speech focused solely on Obama’s reiteration of the temporary ban on deepwater offshore drilling, which he enacted after the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, affecting 33 rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Courier. The lede:
Despite a fierce outcry from state and local officials, President Obama showed no signs Tuesday night of backing down from the six-month ban on exploratory oil-and-gas drilling imposed amid the worst spill in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, the fishermen, who make up coastal Louisiana’s other major industry just wanted to hear the one thing they care about - when the oil will stop gushing - but Obama conveniently avoided mentioning any kind of timeline. As Jeffrey Jones reported for Reuters, on location from a bar in coastal Lousiana, most fishermen, ever the practical types, don’t really care for speech-ifying. Words won’t stop the oil, they said.
Fisherman James Swain watched the major televised speech on the response to the BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) oil spill up at the bar with his friend Ray Cepriano. They ordered up beers and shrimp.
“We’re in a bind down here,” Swain said. “Obama can’t stop the well, and that’s what they need to do.”
Robert Cavnar, writing for the Huffington Post through his Daily Hurricane blog on global and national energy policy, was desperate to hear a promise to enact tough, centralized government oversight on the cleanup.
The speech, while up to Obama’s oratorial standard, fell short of what I think we all needed to hear. What he should have communicated was that the US government was taking over protecting our own shores, shoving BP out of the way and militarizing the response. While he did finally call on the Gulf state governors to activate its National Guard units for the response, he fell short of centralizing clean-up authority under the Coast Guard or any military command.
Meanwhile, even as liberal supporters found the speech lacking for its failure to go far enough in sparking a broader discussion about climate change, Republicans attacked Obama’s speech for doing the very same thing, and using the environmental disaster as a tool to further progressives’ energy policy agenda. It wasn’t all a partisan pile-on, though, pointed out Michael Sheridan at the New York Daily News; even some Democrats “weren’t impressed,’ including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said:
The climate bill isn’t going to stop the oil leak. Stop the oil leak, that’s what this is all about right now.
But don’t stop drilling!, said Sarah Palin, who appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show with a response to Obama’s speech (video here), and brought Obama’s energy policy back to a discussion of national security.
“Certainly we need that (wind and solar energy), but he is wrong not to acknowledge that we still need on a three-legged stool the conventional sources of energy to be drilled here. Otherwise, Bill, we are going to be dropped to our knees and bowing to the Saudis and Venezuela and places like Russia, that will keep producing oil and petroleum products. We will have to ask them to produce for us because we will still be dependent upon these sources of energy.
But short of partisan politics and personal wish-lists on how the president should handle the nation’s energy policy and the oil spill cleanup (I wish Obama had addressed accounts of local officials’ and Coast Guard complicity in aiding BP’s efforts to restrict media access to public beaches, water, and airspace, and then vowed to install a sort of ombudsman to ensure full disclosure and access to the effects of the spill) and other than his demand for a BP-funded escrow account for victims of the spill (which BP agreed this morning to pay $20 billion into), Obama’s speech was thin on the sort of substance that would have answered the age old question, ‘Now what?’