Obama's Oil Spill Speech: Us and Them:
Who the fuck was Obama talking to last night? Because he said that he was going to outline "what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf," as well as, referring to the possible future, "It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now." Obama may as well have said, "you people" in reference to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Could someone tell the President that they've got TVs down there? And that, like many Americans, they were tuned to him speaking? 'Cause, see, if they're "our neighbors," that means he wasn't speaking to them. It means that "they" aren't "us." It means that it's something distanced, something different, an Other, in the political discourse. It's goddamned patronizing.
Here's a hint to Barack Obama's speechwriters: in the future, go with "fellow Americans" or just "we" and "us." Mexico is our neighbor on the Gulf (not "in the Gulf"), not other Americans. It's our Gulf coast states. It's our waters and economy. It's us, man, not them.
The President's big Oval Office speech was a bullshit pile of news updates, vague promises, and toothless threats. Look, we know that Obama wants the leak to stop. We know that the government is doing a lot of shit to make that happen, we know that the oil and tar and dead things need to be cleaned up, we know that BP is on the hook, we know that shit is fucked up for fishing fleets and shrimpers. We know that he has limitations on what exactly he can do.
But the man said, "Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny." And he's right. So tell us what to do. Lead us. That's what we want; it's what we've wanted all along, not an especially skilled anchor informing us that oil spills are bad. "As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -– but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment," he said. So fucking seize it.
Obama's cautious approach to governance made him speak in generalities with little vision for the future. He could have said he was wrong about further drilling. He could have laid out a path that said, "Here's where we are. Here's where we want to be. Here's how we get to this new place." And he could have called on all of us to help. Jesus Christ, how about one mention of conservation (beyond having "conservationists" on one of the endless stream of panels studying shit)? How about saying that it's time, once again, for American drivers to give up their big-ass SUVs? How about enlisting us in the fight, or making it into a fight for our survival? "It's wind energy or The Road, motherfuckers. Which do you choose?"
But he didn't. Instead, he said that there is a future, "Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there." No vision, but it is better for the children, he assured us.
Yeah. Somebody better inform the neighbors.
(Tip o' the hat for the observation on Obama's use of "neighbors" to a rude reader from Louisiana, Kevin A., who also added, "This is the progressive movement's Bush moment -- the moment where they can no longer deny their guy is in over his head. Tonight was Bush in Jackson Square...We are so, so fucked." He has a right to his despair.)