BP oil disaster: it’s not about Obama

All the instant media reactions to Obama’s oil speech missed an essential point: this isn’t about him. The question is not whether he is tough enough on BP, nor whether his Oval Office address will help him or hurt him. It’s not about whether he’s going to be seen as another “weak” President like Jimmy Carter. The question is: Did his speech help us as a nation solve our energy problem?

Obama actually said things that make sense. He outlined a plan to clean up the BP-caused mess, compensate victims, and protect the Gulf Coast environment. More importantly, he reminded us that we can’t go on any longer delaying an energy program to get off oil.

But because news media reports focused so much on the politics — whether his speech helped him or hurt him, and how politicians reacted – they didn’t fully report, in depth and contextually, what he actually said. The lead item this morning on the first page of nytimes.com was a so-called “news analysis” (meaning commentary) instead of a factual report that might have helped readers understand what he actually said and what the background is. This “news analysis” said he was “fighting his own powerlessness.” What’s the basis for saying that? None was given, and in any case that’s not the main point.

It’s true that people are fascinated by how well or how badly a President is doing, and it’s easy for lazy journalists to find plenty of people to quote about that, but that doesn’t mean news media should fixate on our leader’s ups and downs. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if Obama is doing well or not. What matters is whether we as a nation are doing well. That’s what journalists should use as their frame of reference. They should quote informed, impartial experts on how the clean-up plan will work. And they should do hard-hitting, investigative reporting on how much we are being hurt by Congress’s failure to enact a comprehensive energy plan.

(White House photo.)


1 Comment

Filed under BP, BP oil, news media

One response to “BP oil disaster: it’s not about Obama

  1. Jim Roberton

    The BP disaster is like a forest-fire. First we put out the fire, but we don’t stop there. We have to determine what caused it, and we have to work to prevent a recurrence.

    Some might have shrugged this off if the problem were fixed within a few days, but it’s now been two months of enormous and increasing damage, with no end in sight.

    The external costs of undersea drilling must be brought effectively into the marketplace. This means no further undersea drilling until the oil companies, working with the government, develop reliable methods not only to prevent such calamities from happening but to deal effectively with them if they recur. This may increase the price of our oil, but there’s simply no effective alternative.

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