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Anushay Hossain Headshot

Obama, the Oval Office, and Lots of Oil

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A few weeks ago, as oil kept gushing from the Gulf Coast waters, Obama let us know that he talks to the experts so he "knows whose ass to kick" for the disaster that is the BP oil spill.

The media in the US and cable news talking heads mouthed off not on the gazillion gallons of oil that is still oozing from deep inside the ocean, but on how controversial Obama's "ass-kicking" statement was. The focus of the national discussion was not finding a way to stop the spillage immediately, but on the whole "angry black-man" image Obama must be careful to maneuver around because Barack just can't afford to be seen losing his cool with his skin color.

Fast-forward to this week and the main question I have, especially after his Oval Office speech, is not about Obama behaving like an "angry black man", but becoming an old, white man! An old, white man with gray hair and big, floppy ears, one which we all knew as President for the last eight years. The question on my mind was: "When did Obama become George W. Bush?"

Not only did Obama respond to the anxiety of a nation with what else but a speech, it was not even a good one. In fact, while during his candidate days Obama's oratory skills could have you on your feet about whatever Obama told you to get on your feet about, the dryness of his speech on the BP oil spill almost put me to sleep. Until that is, I heard my TV utter these words from the President:

...Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al-Qaida, and tonight, I've returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.

Is it just me or is something about this quote so Bush-era? Are we talking about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast or the war Afghanistan?

There was something about this analogy that just sounded so wrong and out of context. BP is responsible for the drilling that caused this oil spill, so why are we talking about this as though we have been attacked? Why are we comparing it with war?

Obama's statement suggested that the oil had attacked us. The oil was the terrorist. Obama was vilifying Mother Nature and making it sound as though we were the victims.

But really it was the other way around. I could not articulate all the things that were so wrong with this statement until I read this piece in the Huffington Post by veteran journalist, Robert Scheer. It lays outs how what we have placed upon nature's ecological balance with this oil spill is nothing short of an assault on nature:

The oil was minding its own business until some multinational corporations, enabled by a dysfunctional government regulatory regime, decided to wage war on the ecological balance of the oceans by employing technology that they were not prepared to control. Cleaning up the oil spill mess we made by raping the environment to satiate our consumer gluttony is not a glorious battle against evil but rather obligatory penance for the profound error of our ways.

Scheer asks how we can even attempt to place the blame on nature by asking: "You wound Mother Nature by punching a hole deep in her pristine ocean where you have no business going and when she bleeds uncontrollably you dare blame her for the assault?"

Scheer goes onto to point out that all this is coming from a President who just before this disaster happened, had given oil companies the go ahead "to pillage in the deep seas at will."

Off-shore drilling and Obama? See, I told you Barack was turning into George W.!

But enough of bashing the President and his speeches. The important thing is that during the worst natural disaster to ever hit the US, what people really craved from Obama's speech were solutions and leadership to get us to those solutions. Big hype over some fancy speech from some fancy room in the White House is just not going to be enough. We need concrete, real action steps we can take now because the oil is still gushing into our oceans. It hasn't stopped and we don't really know how to make it stop. And Obama sitting at his desk in the Oval Office failed to offer any ideas.

The good news however is that Rachel Maddow did! And she let us know exactly we can solve this crisis. As cable tv pundits had a field day panning and bashing Obama's speech, Maddow went in a different direction and offered her take on the speech she wishes Obama had delivered.

It really is worth taking the ten minutes to watch Maddow deliver her compelling and passionate speech which almost makes up for Obama's lack of fervor.

Someone should make sure the President and his advisers are listening to Rachel Maddow, and taking note. Because frankly Mr. President, the time has come to go beyond "kicking some ass".

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