Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama's Oval Office Address: The Return of Nixonian Rhetoric

Watching President Obama's BP speech last night, all I could think was: "It's Richard Nixon. He has returned."

It pains me to say this, not only because I'm a passionate Democrat (that's no secret) but because I voted for Barak Obama. Not just as the lesser of two evils, but because I was impressed. Mr. Obama seemed to bring something back to politics that we haven't seen for decades. He seemed to bring an intelligence and eloquence that could inspire people to step up to the plate and make the tough choices America needs to make to get back on track.

And those choices will be tough. As soon as we've recovered from this recession, we need to curb spending and raise taxes to bring our debt under control. We need to begin ween ourselves off of oil. We need to give birth to entire new industries, probably "green" in nature, which will put our people back to work at jobs in which real products are made and sold to a world which cannot compete with our industry and ingenuity.

Duringt the campaign of '08, the right wing carped that Obama was "All talk" and "Just Words". But the supporters of candidate Obama knew that the BEST American ideas are just words. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, The Gettysburg Address, the inaugural speeches of FDR and JFK, in which one leader told us we had nothing to fear but fear itself and the other exhorted us to ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country, these are all "just words"... words that inspire our people to reach deep within themselves to find the needed energy to complete the job.

My disappointment this morning is not with the President's lack of words, but in their dead and droning quality.

Last night's Oval Office speech needed to be a stirring call to action. Instead, we were treated to a laundry list of lifeless facts and figures:
From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history -- an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost 40 years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across 4 states to contain and clean up the oil. 1000s of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I've authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast.

As I listened to Mr. Obama drone through his address, all I could think of was the enumeration in Richard Nixon's famous Checker's speech:

First of all, we've got a house in Washington, which cost 41,000 dollars and on which we owe 20,000 dollars. We have a house in Whittier, California which cost 13,000 dollars and on which we owe 3000 dollars. My folks are living there at the present time. I have just 4000 dollars in life insurance, plus my GI policy which I've never been able to convert, and which will run out in two years. I have no life insurance whatever on Pat. I have no life insurance on our two youngsters, Tricia and Julie. I own a 1950 Oldsmobile car. We have our furniture. We have no stocks and bonds of any type. We have no interest of any kind, direct or indirect, in any business. Now, that's what we have.

I've noticed this alarming Nixonian tendency in the President before- one of his catch phrases seems to be: "Let me be clear"...how different is that from Dick Nixon's famous..."Now, Let me be perfectly clear".

But more dangerous than the hackneyed rhetorical style is a tendency toward the disingenuous.

In his speech last night, Mr. Obama referred to his action in March, authorizing drilling off the American East Coast. He said:

A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe –- that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why.

As if there was some big mystery. On what possible grounds could the president believe that drilling, just off of our billion dollar fishing and tourist beaches, would be "absolutely safe"? If he'd said "worth the risk", I might have bought it. But "Absolutely Safe?"...even a lowly blogger with 10 or 11 readers could have guessed that it was not "absolutely safe"...and this one did, back in March.

Mr. President...cut the crap. You've still got me (and I'm just one of millions), but if anyone else out there is feeling as I do, the depth of your support is drying up. It goes without saying that I prefer you to a Republican Party which spews intolerance, voodoo economics, and just plain yokelism, but I don't want to go to the polls this fall out of a sense of resigned duty...I'd prefer to be inspired to do great things. It's hard to do that when your speeches are of a Nixonian level of dullness, and your actions are even less inspiring.

Sorry, but it needs to be said.

We know you can do much better, and it's time to start.

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