Pundits Slam Obama's Oval Office Speech
President Obama's Oval Office address on Tuesday night was set up to demonstrate presidential control over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, to confront the U.S. dependency on oil, and perhaps even to push energy reform legislation. It remains to be seen whether Obama can convince the American public, sell Congress on legislation, or actually fix the spill. But his speech seems to have failed in efforts to win over the chattering classes, which nearly uniformly derided the speech's lack of specifics and its failure to call for strong action.Other than that...
- MSNBC Hosts Not Impressed Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann reacted poorly. Olbermann said, "It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days. ... Nothing specific at all was said." Matthews said of Obama's reliance on experts, "This meritocracy has gone too far." Video here, highlights here.
- No Action on Climate, Energy Reforms Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard fumes, "Guidance from the White House is what moved health care reform and financial re-regulation, but Obama still hasn't asserted himself on climate and energy in the same way. Tonight was that opportunity. He didn't take it." For example, "There wasn't even a clear call for a carbon cap, which I fear all but dooms its chances this year." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein agrees, "The pessimistic take is that Obama shied away from clearly describing the problem, did not endorse specific legislation, did not set benchmarks, and chose poll-tested language rather than a sharper case that might persuade skeptics."
- Ambition Evident, But Few Ideas The Washington Post's Michael Gerson writes, "The main impression left by President Obama’s address on the oil spill is the chasm between the ambition of its commitments and the thinness of its policies. ... The setting of the Oval Office creates an expectation of decisive executive action. ... But someone at the White House is responsible for putting Obama in a dramatic setting with little worth saying." The Atlantic's Josh Green agrees, "this speech was primarily about containing the damage to his administration, and was not the pivot point in the energy debate that many people were hoping for."
- Politically Misguided Few think the speech will gather Obama or congressional Democrats much electoral support for action. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes, "The question is whether that frame -- act now, or else -- is the right one in an electoral climate where members of the president's own party are already nervous about what awaits them in November." The New Republic's Jonathan Chait sighs, "The public does not understand scientific evidence about the effects of carbon dioxide emissions. So instead Obama is forced to construct an argument for reducing those emissions that bears little relation to the actual merits.">>>MORE
From the HuffPo, Feb. 13, 2008:
Chris Matthews: "I Felt This Thrill Going Up My Leg" As Obama Spoke
Last night during MSNBC's Potomac Primary coverage, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann were discussing Barack Obama's speech. Matthews — who, in the past, has both cried over an Obama speech and compared him to Jesus — described exactly what happens to him when Obama speaks:
I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often....