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Obama showed he grasps depths of global challenge

Commentators, understandably, will be analyzing Obama's big Gulf spill presser today to determine whether he did what had to do politically. Did he sound angry enough? Did he convincingly rebut legit criticism of his handling of the crisis? Why did he say "drill, baby, drill"?

But there's another set of questions to be asked: Did Obama signal today that he grasps the magnitude of leadership that will be required to solve the deeper, underlying problem? Did he seize on the spill to push for a fundamental shift in our thinking, and will he continue to do so?

The answer to those questions has to be Yes. It's unclear whether Obama fixed his immediate problems -- he opened himself up to more criticism by not knowing the circumstances of the departure of a key official. And there are still serious outstanding questions as to what Obama will do in short term policy terms and whether he'll confront entrenched interests aggressively enough.

But for those wondering about his global handling of the bigger, long-term problem, the presser had to be somewhat reassuring. Obama hit three main points. At a time when he's been strongly criticized for not rallying for meaningful energy reform, he used the disaster to argue that weaning us off oil is imperative, saying flatly: "We can't drill our way out of the problem."

Second, he conspicuously took the opportunity -- several times -- to link the spill to the need to pass energy reform.

"This disaster should serve as a wake-up call that it's time to move forward on this legislation," he said.

Obama also announced a six-month moratorium on more drilling, and it would be nice if that went on longer. But he clearly left the door open to extending this moratorium, should the commission's ongoing study of the disaster reveal that drilling can't be done safely.

"We can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again," Obama said. "And it's going to take some time for the experts to make those determinations."

This seems like a clear signal that the moratorium might be extended beyond six months. Indeed, by then the imagery coming out of the Gulf could still be horrific. Obama seemed to signal that a continued reckoning with the real costs of our current energy practices lies ahead.

"We think that the president showed he understands the long term challenge," said David Willett, a spokesman for the Sierra Club. "We were very encouraged to see it framed as, `We have to move off oil.'"

The devil will obviously lie in the policy details and in whether the administration meaningfully holds BP accountable, but in big picture terms, that seems about right.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 27, 2010; 5:12 PM ET
Categories:  Climate change  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup

Comments

Agreed, Greg. I see definite signs that Obama is grabbing the bull by the horns on this one. (He's probably ashamed that he signed on the off-shore drilling to begin with -- hence why he said he's not part of the Drill Baby Drill crowd).

Typo above:

At a time when he's been strongly criticized for [NOT?] rallying for meaningful energy reform

Posted by: wbgonne | May 27, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne, thanks. fixing. ugh. hate typos.

Posted by: sargegreg | May 27, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I also agree, Greg. Good points.

Related:

In March, by 50% to 43%, Americans said it was more important to develop U.S. energy supplies than to protect the environment, continuing a trend in the direction of energy production seen since 2007. Now, the majority favor environmental protection, by 55% to 39% -- the second-largest percentage (behind the 58% in 2007) favoring the environment in the 10-year history of the question.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/137882/Oil-Spill-Alters-Views-Environmental-Protection.aspx

This chart says it ALL:

http://sas-origin.onstreammedia.com/origin/gallupinc/GallupSpaces/Production/Cms/POLL/9nkay4cwfucll_ldm9-8ow.gif

Posted by: Ethan2010 | May 27, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I thought the President was excellent on the topic of the oil spill. I thought he was candid in admitting where the errors may have occured, yet forceful in showing that HE not BP was in charge.

I wish I found his answer to Helen Thomas' question as candid. Same old same old on Afghanistan without any real improvement and leaks from the Pentagon that this baby is going down the crapper. Get out now O!!!

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 27, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I have so, so, SO very little sympathy for Dear Leader Comrade President Obama, but for goodness sake this really isn't his fault. Government really can't be -- shouldn't be -- the repository of all capabilities and skill sets in a society. For such to be so would vest all means of production in the hands of government. We call that socialism, which in the Marxist dialectic, is the road to Communism. Thank you, no. Our government builds nothing, not one house, ship, tank or airplane. It may invest public funds to bankroll the occasional public good, but, again produces nothing, zip, niente, rien, nil, not a freaking useful thing. I like it that way.

Posted by: cwejohnson | May 27, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Greg must be on the Obama and Sierra Club payroll. The Obama administration has let BP run this spill into the ground, literally.

Obama was embarrising today in his press conference. Excuses, excuses, excuses! Obama and his team has never made a mistake, - give me a break, please!

We need oil! We need American oil even worse. We are drilling in deep water because of all the tree hugging Sierra Club BS.

Go ahead and preach environmental goodness but we must build nuclear power plants and drill in Alaska.

Obama is at fund raisers while the gulf is a disaster. His team let this get out of control for political reasons. His team has done nothing but have committee meetings.

A camel is a race horse built by a committee.

I hope you are willing to walk to work and freeze in the dark this winter.

Get ready for $5.00 gas!

You can keep the change!

Posted by: Independent23 | May 27, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Independent23, hysterical much?

Posted by: suekzoo1 | May 27, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

"Get ready for $5.00 gas!"

We had $5 gas a couple years ago under the previous administration. It's been steady around $3 for awhile now.

The price of gas is more often tied to the value of our dollar, since OPEC prices oil barrels by the American dollar.

Posted by: SDJeff | May 27, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Ethan, my little buddy ROVs are working again. Check it out.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 27, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

So he didn't know if the environmentalist whacko he put in charge of MMA was fired or not, and you feel better? Heck, even the NY Times was incredulous!

Second worst press conference in a year, and it was only his second new conference in a year.

Who was acting stupidly this time?

Posted by: Cornell1984 | May 27, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

All, happy hour roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/05/happy_hour_roundup_17.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 27, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

independent23 wrote:

His team let this get out of control for political reasons.

Huh? Seems to me the government doesn't have the capability to do anything about the spill--don't have the equipment, skills, etc. And I'm sure the quicker BP can get this under control the happier they'll be. Indep23 is a good example of paranoia, axe grinding, and special pleading. Maybe you expect Obama to "dive in" as Palin suggested. With what? Scuba gear and a giant cork?

Posted by: scientist1 | May 27, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

As a progressive that still supports Obama, he should get much blame in his handling this disaster. Not so much from stopping the leak, but not protecting our shores and people. Volunteers and paid workers are still without respirators, a million gallons of poison (dispersants) only let it settle on the bottom to become washed up later (west FL beaches had oil not from this), micro bubble aerating on the plume is still not done, massive production of oil eating bacteria not done, and retired Gen. Honoree's advice not taken. Bush regulators were lobbyists for the industry they are supposed to watch and no fine tooth comb looking at all regulators was not done. Bulldozers building berms at waters edge saving the undergrowth not done. Building barrier islands should have started when he took office, not for spills so much but hurricanes. What will the GOP do in the south campaigning on small gov't and begging for their help at the same time?

Posted by: jameschirico | May 27, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me the Tea Party types, Sarah, Rush, Rand "Goody-two-Shoes" Paul and the entire Republican Party would have a difficult time accusing Obama for responding to the spill fast or forcefully enough.

After all, they stand for smaller government and non-intervention by government into private property issues.

My bet is that if they smell blood in the water they will flip and flop to score a few political points.

Later, they can pull a "McCain" and claim they were never hypocrites even when they were hypocrites.

Sadly, their base will see sense in their claim and send more money: eeehah.

Posted by: apspa1 | May 27, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

"We can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again," Obama said.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Pushing the big lie. You can not prevent accidents, accidents did not stop NASA. We haven't banned cars yet, even though they kill way more humans. We obviously were not prepared to handle it, but we can work on that.

Why weren't their proper oil containment solutions on hand?

What were the plans for this type of accident?

Were the plans followed?

Once the plan was deemed inadequate, who moved things forward?

Is there anyone taking notes so we do better the next time?

Why didn't anyone look to the large saudi spill for solutions yet?

Posted by: thelaw1 | May 27, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Greg. Agreed. Right on. Spot on. Uh huh. Yeah. Right. Couldn't have said it better myself. You're not a sycophant, Greg. Spot on. Right on. Obama is completely right on top of it and sees the entire global picture clearly happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again. Let us sing a song of cheer again. Right on, Greg. Spot on. Agreed. Yup. Sure.

Posted by: chatard | May 27, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Uh ... what? Huh?

Obama has shown he has very little idea of the big picture. He talks about his little daughter's questions, a classic politician's line. And he says he thinks about the oil spill every day. Thinks about it. DOES nothing. The governor of La. is crying for simple permission to build artificial barrier islands, and the Obama's federal government has to evaluate the environmental impact for weeks instead.
Obama is no leader and this column is nonsense.

Posted by: kls1 | May 27, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

"We can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again," Obama said.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Pushing the big lie. You can not prevent accidents, accidents did not stop NASA. We haven't banned cars yet, even though they kill way more humans. We obviously were not prepared to handle it, but we can work on that.

Why weren't their proper oil containment solutions on hand?

What were the plans for this type of accident?

Were the plans followed?

Once the plan was deemed inadequate, who moved things forward?

Is there anyone taking notes so we do better the next time?

Why didn't anyone look to the large saudi spill for solutions yet?

Posted by: thelaw1 | May 27, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Obama has been in charge and has a grasp but, the pundits are out of control.
They are so in a froth for controversy, and have worked so hard to make this 'obama's katrina'' that they are doing whatever they can to misinform and undermine this man.
they know everything is being done and Obama cannot do more. Plus, every week since he began has given him another crisis to deal with, curosity of the idiot who ran things before him. Bush.
While the pundits have been ginning up faux outrage for over year over every little thing to the point of burning everyone out, the president has had to deal with the magnitude of bush's incompetence while the hyennas on the right and in cable are braying

Posted by: vwcat | May 27, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama can't tell oil from lard. His response to this is a crime.

Posted by: carlbatey | May 27, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Why has over a month gone by and still no critcism of Obama's handling of this oil spill.You and the reast of the anti America media were all over Bush in a little over a week during the Valdez spill.

Posted by: jburo | May 28, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

What a poor attempt at propaganda spinning.

An 8th grade civics student (are there any?) would comprehend the ramifications of energy policy.

Y'all conflating the problems. Drilling offshore has proven to be a minimal environmental problem, until government policy forced the oil companies to go to the deep well areas. This current oil leak problem is a direct result of junk environmentalism and political correctness gone awry.

Pretending that Obama knows what he is doing is going to lead to more disasters for the world! He is not a leader! He is so inexperienced that it would be embarrassing to the mass media if and when they get their collective heads out of the sand and stop making excuses for Barry Soetoro!

Posted by: Hazmat77 | May 28, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

to all those who think BP is in charge .... BP and its subcontractors are the only entity that has the equipment in the Gulf of Mexico for deep sea drilling. The US government does NOT have the reobotic equipment needed to do the necessary work some 5,000 feet below water level.

And if I were Obama and making the mess out of this I'd not want to admit it either, hence the delay.


Posted by: Hazmat77 | May 28, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Wow! After that sad Press Conference performance, Obama's first in almost a year, Mr. Sargent isn't just drinking the Kool-Aide, he's swimming in it, to come up with that rosy interpretation. Its hard to see how you turn arrogance and incompetence into a grasp of Global Challenges story. I guess the one press conference in nearly a year was enough to get the Poodle Press back in Obama's corner!

Posted by: valwayne | May 28, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Right, See Sestak subterfuge,
The Oblamie doesn't have a grasp on anything except the ability to LIE about his campaign promises being broken. Hard to name even ONE that he has kept!

this guy came in without being vetted by WaPo and others and now we see the DIRE consequences of your inaction.

Posted by: morphy | May 28, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The only global thing Obama has a grasp on is global governance NWO style. He has proven to be the most radical and dangerous president since FDR. All it takes to see that is to do a little research on his appointees. They all advocate diminishing individual rights, in one way or another, for "the greater good". The true definition of "progressive" today, is progress toward socialism.

Posted by: samadams25 | May 28, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

We need to throw all Dems out of office, starting this November. Also, it wouldn't hurt to have a new national holiday (gov't workers do not get the day off) to celebrate throwing Obama out in 2012. Millions are sick of him.

Posted by: josephpturner | May 28, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Commendable effort to cover for your guy, Mr. Sargent, but no cigar. We see now why Obama is generally so shy when it comes to press conferences. Yesterday's performance was, in a word, embarrassing. Obama's two goals, obviously, were to take credit for every good thing he didn't do and shirk responsibility every error he committed. Obama "grasped the depths of global challenge" alright--and found himself in 'way over his head while confronting them.

Posted by: jmbreland | May 28, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

HA HA VERY FUNNY

The author is obviously having a laugh at the readers' expense. Any serious person can see that President Obama is not serious - we're not going to 'transition' to a 'clean energy economy' because we don't have a pot to p**s in and there is no real demand for 'clean energy'. If it happens, it will be because oil and other fossil fuels become prohibitively expensive.

Two ways that can happen.
1. Artificially, by way of taxes. The problem is that everyone knows it's artificial, and the energy is still in the ground. When the current crop of lunatics leaves office, we can dig it up, so why bother pouring billions in private funds into energy research?
2. It becomes scarce because we use it up.

If these energy sources are limited, it will all be burned up in time. There are no real emissions controls in China and India, and they are doing all they can to make fossil fuels as available and affordable to their economies as possible. So the dirty polluters will burn all they want, while we sit watching their economics march along, whilst we tell each other how virtuous we are.

NAY! Reject Obama's idiocy and embrace fossil fuels. Burn them in our clean factories and engines, burn as much as we can as cheaply as we can. The faster we do so, the less the dirty nations will burn.

Posted by: GregBuls1 | May 29, 2010 2:11 AM | Report abuse

Obama has been in over his head from day 1. The community organizer/rock star President has failed on so many levels, both foreign and domestic, that it boggles the mind that the pathetic MSM still tries to spin for him. Good thing that the American people are turning to more trusted sources for their news.

WaPo = HufPo = DNC = Obama love

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | May 29, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

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