"SEIZE BP" responds to Pres. Obama's Oval Office Address
If the US President's response to a terrible environmental disaster has been an exercise in timidity, some ad hoc groups are being quite forceful. The Answer coalition is asking
for a movement to have the assets of BP seized to provide substantial aid to the Gulf region inhabitants whose security and livelihood are threatened by the oil spill. There is an organization now called SEIZE BP.
Is Barack Obama an advocate of the people -- or corporate interests? The advocacy group's statement begins:
"President Obama needed to be able to say with certainty to the people of the Gulf Coast, who today go to sleep fearing that they will not be able to put food on the table, pay their rent or their other obligations because of the spill, that tonight you can sleep safe knowing that the funds needed to make you whole would be secured, in trust, and available immediately. "
More of the SEIZE BP statement: Why "negotiate" with corporate criminals?
"Rather than using the power vested in him as President and fulfilling the obligation vested in him to protect the people, he instead insists on 'negotiations' with an entity that has engaged in criminal and reckless acts of deadly proportions.
President Obama has been given a choice: Serve the people or be subservient to corporate interests. The corporate interests of BP are in irreconcilable conflict with those of the people of the Gulf Coast and of the United States.
The workers and families in the Gulf Coast need action. Not rhetoric. Not sympathy and not the channeling, or mirroring, of their anger and frustration through the figure of the President. Their suffering is real. Their fears of life-altering catastrophe are well founded. The coastlines of five states are under attack.
The White House, responding to building national anger and the echoing cry for relief, brought out all of the symbolism of Presidential authority and leadership that have been so sorely lacking over the past two months of crisis. For the very first time in his presidency, which has seen the financial crisis—to which his administration responded with a massive banker bailout—Obama used the authority and the familiarity of a speech from the Oval Office to communicate directly with the nation as a whole.Long on rhetoric—short on guarantees
This was to be the defining moment of the President’s response to this crisis, if not the defining moment of his presidency as a whole.
President Obama did not deliver. He did not deliver specifics about an escrow fund; specifics about the size of a proper trust account; specifics about how it would be administered; specifics about whether all wage-earners who have lost their income would be able to get immediate compensation. Again long on rhetoric, painfully short on details or the minimum guarantees that people require. President Obama reiterated his imposition of a six month moratorium on deepwater drilling but refused to pledge to use BP funds to compensate all oil workers who will lose their incomes as a result of the moratorium. . .
Tonight’s speech—particularly in what was missing—projected President Obama’s unwillingness to act in the face of this catastrophe.
His election benefitted from the repository of the people’s aspirations. He promised change. He promised hope. Tonight, for the people of the Gulf Coast, that promise remains unfulfilled."
Well, Barack Obama is not the friend of the big oil companies that the Bush-Cheney administration was. But how much difference has that made, and is Obama more an advocate of the people, or of big business? Two months ago we had another test of that question: the BP offshore oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico -- the worst environmental disaster in American history, we're told -- just what they said Katrina was only five years ago. A blow falling on a wound, since this is the second time the humble fisherman of the Gulf has had his livelihood wrenched away from him. And what has the Administration done about this? A video
on this theme of taking action on the oil spill from Environmental Defense Fund asks everyone to write their representatives.
As always, grass roots action remains the key to change. But with a major environmental disaster, rapid action from the top was called for. To many, President Obama's first Oval Office address to the nation on June 15, 2010 seems too little and too late, and only showed how his response to BP and the spill has highlighted his weaknesses. We may describe George W. Bush's presidency in terms of what he did and shouldn't have. We may wind up describing Barack Obama's in terms of what he didn't do and should have. Americans have been pushed from one extreme to another. Shooting from the hip, the White House cowboy, has been replaced by professorial hesitation, the uncertainty of the "rookie." And yet the two presidents are not as different as those who elected Barack Obama dreamed they would be.
The NY Times
June 16, 2010 lead editorial
"From the Oval Office"responding to the President's first address to the people from that famous White House location stressed that Obama must "take full charge of the fight" for a real energy bill to pass in Congress. They didn't quite say "too little and too late," but they said the American people "have been anxiously waiting for President Obama to take full charge of the Gulf oil catastrophe." And "Mr. Obama and his team will have to follow through -- with more energy and dedication than they have shown so far."
Also, and more summarily, "We know that the country is eager for reassurance. We're not sure the American people got it on Tuesday night in a speech that was short on specifics and lacking in self-criticism." At least this time, in front of the whole nation, the President didn't again shockingly "whinge" (as Maureen Dowd put
it) as he did the other day speaking to Grand Isle residents: "I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw."
He may wind up wishing he had tried to do just that.
Yes, the President has been learning on the job. They all do, though he is more a rookie than most. Yet Obama has done good in many areas. He has not by a long sight made me want to have George W. Bush back (that last "whinge" has a bad enough Bushie ring to it). Half a loaf is better than none. But he has disappointed in important ways:
Failure to punish Bush crimes and end human rights violations of the post-9/11 era -- the recent failure to redress the wrongs against Maher Arar a good example of this huge shortcoming, the continuation of Gitmo a bigger one. Sending troops to the Mexican border? Lack of action on immigration. I would consider that a human rights violation too.
Related to #1, because another failure to detach from Bush foreign policies, stepping up the killing machine. More war in Pakistan and Afghanistan, drone attacks, black ops troops pursuing secret wars in dozens of countries. Are Democrats pacifists? They sure aren't. Has Obama gotten us out of Iraq faster? Has he stood up to Israel and pushed harder for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem? Has he stopped kowtowing to thug leaders like Putin and Netanyahu?
Failure to enact strong new reforms in the economic sector, deference to Wall Street and corporate interests. One analysis is to say he is making "depression" mistakes, ceding to worries about "deficits" and moving toward further recession -- and failing to solve the problem of massive unemployment that is a key to economic revival.
4. Universal health care
. Failure to stand up for a "public option" in health care reform and allowing it to shrivel up like a raisin in the sun. But with his support if not his total initiative the government did get a major health care bill passed, and this is a big step, however incomplete, toward real reform of the broken US health care system.
Obviously we couldn't expect an American President to defy corporate interests with the authority called for by SEIZE BP. But the fact that the other big oil companies -- Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, and Conoco Phillips -- have "broken ranks" and refused
to back up BP shows that this disaster is virtually a "bipartisan" issue where Obama might have acted forcefully and still represented both the public and business. The Gulf oil disaster called for prompt, decisive action that President Obama might have provided but very evidently did not. Despite his repeated claim of never "passing the buck," it appears that as a President Obama has a tendency to dodge responsibility, sometimes under the guise of carefully pondering the issues.