AP Photo: President Barack Obama addresses the nation on the Gulf oil spill from the Oval Office.It's funny (strange) what Washington journalists focus on sometimes: Who will get Helen Thomas' vacated front row seat in the White House press room. The fact that President Barack Obama chose to address the nation from the staid setting of his Oval Office desk (ooohhh!). As if any of this matters as 60,000 barrels of oil is spewing into the Gulf daily. Or that the United States' longest-running war wages on in Afghanistan.
When the president began speaking from the Oval Office Tuesday night, what mattered was what he said and if it allays any of the massive fears of the people of the Gulf Coast, many already reeling from loss of income and business due to the biggest environmental disaster in our country's history. But as BP officials come to the White House to talk to the president, critics on both the left and right are questioning whether his words and actions are enough.
Here are a few highlights:
- Obama said he will make BP pay for the damage the company has caused, and directed the company "to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party."
- He said there are currently 30,000 people who are working across four states to contain and clean up the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf, and 17,000 National Guard members are being deployed along the coast.
- The president said he has established a national commission to understand the causes of this disaster and "offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place."
- Finally, he urged Congress and Americans to be re-focused and recommitted to creating and investing in clean energy industries and jobs. What we need, he said, is a "transition away from fossil fuels," a dependency which is playing out in awfully epic proportions in the Gulf. "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. And only if we rally together and act as one nation -- workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors," he said.
So, how did he do? Did President Obama say enough to make us feel that they are going to be able to stop the oil from flowing as soon as possible, clean it up, and save the financial livelihoods of the Americans affected by this tragedy?