Obama's next speech on the gulf oil spill: rally the nation
We are so used to President Obama delivering stirring speeches that reflect America's dreams for itself and future generations that when he gives one that is perfectly okay, it's a total letdown. On that spectrum, last night's Oval Office address was a letdown, which is why the president is going to have to do it again if he is to make good on his insistence that he will not accept inaction on moving to a clean-energy future. But this time he needs to do it in a venue that has proven to be a winner for him: a joint session of Congress.
When Obama needed to rally the nation and stiffen the spine of Congress around health-care reform last year, he took to the well of the House of Representatives to make his case. After a summer of angry town hall meetings on health-care reform, Obama got things back on track and regained momentum with a September address. (The Affordable Care Act became law in March.) That's because Obama feeds off the energy in the room. The applause, the hisses, the boos, the "You lie!" moments and his reactions to them allow him to connect in a way that eludes him in the isolation of the Oval Office or a statement delivered from the Rose Garden.
The president is going to have to go back to the well one more time. And when he does, he must expand on these key passage in last night's speech.
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.
The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.
We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny....
Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.
...the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.
Obama needs to talk more about the national security implications of our addiction to fossil fuels. He needs to talk more about that $1 billion Americans are sending overseas and how a price on carbon would allow us to keep that money here at home -- for our benefit. And he needs to talk more about how the transition to a clean energy future would mean a more prosperous future for the U.S.
The president has talked about all of these things before. But he needs to make them the central focus of a call-to-arms address that -- you got it -- rallies the nation and stiffens the spine of Congress to get something done. Obama then must follow it up with a sustained sales effort. One day to the Texas oil patch. Another day to Detroit. And another to Silicon Valley. Each stop punctuating the problem and solution to our addiction to fossil fuels and imported oil and how the American people have their futures in their hands.
The conventional wisdom says that with mid-term elections coming, there will be no movement on the comprehensive energy bill clogged in the Capitol. The president has to shake that up. The proposal must be improved. It could be changed. Congress and the White House could come to their senses and get behind the simpler carbon tax. Or perhaps they'll give the Clear Act, sponsored by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) a deserved second look. But they have to do something.
"And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom," Obama said as he reminded us of the extraordinary efforts that put an American on the moon and produced enough airplanes and tanks during World War II. Obama must ensure that that grand American tradition continues -- by going to the well one more time.
| June 16, 2010; 7:43 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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