Obama’s Speech on the BP Oil Spill

For those of you who are familiar with the way I review speeches, this is old hand. For those of you who are not, I read the entire speech, I copy only the portions I feel are noteworthy or for which I have a response (positive and negative), and then I respond. Pretty simple.

I used CBS as my source for the transcript.

Speaker: President Obama

Date of speech: June 17, 2010

Location: Delivered from the Oval Office in the White House

We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.

It took me a while to finally find something that I felt was worthy to throw up here. There was the reference to the war on terror (I still get queasy when I here him and others talk about that war like they’ve ever supported it) and, of course, the obligatory commentary on the economic situation (where were you last year when all you could think about was health care?). There was also what could be construed as a veiled reference, and distancing, to Hurricane Katrina.

But this comment was the first one that, by itself, really warranted my attention, and I find it bothersome. I agree entirely that BP should cover the cost of the clean up and compensate for losses, but to say that we’re going to make them pay? Are we school kids playing on the playground or what? You make terrorists pay for their crimes, you make criminals pay for their errors. You don’t make someone pay for an accident. And before you bring up the alleged known safety issues, I’d ask you to stand in those shoes for just a minute and understand the bigger picture. I’m not excusing BP by any means, but I am saying that it is a worthwhile endeavor to understand that sometimes people make mistakes. And yes, they should pay for the cleanup and losses, but to play the bully and threaten them? Lame.

From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history.

And yet I seem to recall lots of criticism of inaction, of ineptitude, and lack of leadership. No, you may have been looking at it and keeping tabs on it, but to say that you were in charge isn’t quite right.

Because of our efforts….

Our efforts? I’d just like to point out that the majority of the work done and the heaviest burden has been done by BP so far. That’s as it should be, but don’t claim credit for it. You have done something, but you act like BP hasn’t even been involved.

Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is 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.

I think my thoughts here are pretty clear, but just in case…. Yes, BP should compensate for losses. No, the government should not be responsible for this, or, at the very least, the government should not be commanding the chairman of BP to do this. And I don’t necessarily agree with removing control of that fund from BP either.

Personal responsibility is, in my opinion, one of the hallmarks of a strong, stable society, and it is something seriously lacking today. Demanding a company do this and then wresting control of it from them removes all personal responsibility from the company. It removes the opportunity for reconciliation. It removes the opportunity for learning and for growth. Forced repentance, as is happening here, is not an educational opportunity; it is a destructive opportunity. And while expecting a company to behave ethically isn’t necessarily likely in our current corporate environment, wouldn’t it be refreshing if one did of their own accord? In BP’s case, we won’t get that chance.

And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.

Again there’s that harsh language. That finger pointing. That voice of defiance that says, “We will NOT cooperate with you!” I get that people are angry and want him to speak like this, but that means one of two things then: either he actually agrees with this concept of punishing BP instead of building an environment of mutual cooperation and benefit OR he gave in and is just saying what the people want to hear. Either one is less than satisfying in my opinion even if such responses are justified.

A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe — that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken. That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion — these families deserve to know why.

Now this is legitimate. We should know why, and especially those who lost loved ones should know why. They deserve answers. But to assume that any endeavor is “absolutely safe” is not reasonable. All we can do are take adequate precautions. In the case of BP, and according to my understanding, many of the fail safes were there but they were either faulty or not correctly implemented or who knows what. To expect that fallible people will always behave infallibly is, sadly, hopeless. No amount of precaution can ever make something “absolutely safe,” and to say that it is so is mere rhetoric for the panicky among us who, in times or crisis, would rather pin the blame on someone else.

Just sayin’ it.

Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility — a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.

Honestly, that is how it should be. We are not that world, of course, but yes, people should be beholden to those they interact with. They should understand the effect they have on society as individuals and society as a whole, and they should respond in ways that return maximum benefit and not just maximum personal gain. Where this does not exist, however, the common response seems to be increased regulation. In fact, I think that historians might look back on this presidency not as the presidency that sunk the national debt to internationally historic lows or brought us the much maligned health care bill, but rather as the presidency that clamped down on business, that made regulation the hallmark, that made us feel comfortable that Big Brother would protect us from Bad Company.

Increased regulation means decreased personal responsibility.

Decreased personal responsibility means increased dependence on the government.

Increased dependence on the government means decreased personal liberties.

Decreased personal liberties means the diminishing role of those things that I hold most dear.

I’m not advocating no regulation, but I am advocating at least a return to personal (and corporate) responsibility where good is pursued, not greed.

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.

And this is something that, on the surface, I embrace completely. I’m sure Obama and I have different means of achieving that goal, but clean energy and energy independence are two platforms I fully support.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us…  …And only if we rally together and act as one nation — workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

Now I’m confused…. Up until now, I have seen little come out of this presidency that has anything to do with personal responsibility and work. I’ve seen increased welfare programs, mandated health care, the redistribution of wealth, and massive increases in entitlement programs. Sure, I hear lots of “everyone do your part,” but I see little action backing up those words. I’ve certainly made no secret that I greatly dislike this presidency, and this is also certainly one of the corner stones of that dislike. He’s a pretty talker, but I’d like to see him actually do something.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And there are some who believe that 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.

Oh boy… SPEND! SPEND! SPEND!!!!! Tell you what, Mr. President, you figure out how you’re going to cover the record deficits you keep throwing at us, and I’ll listen to your proposal to spend even more of my great-grand childrens’ money.

The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet. You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.

With the primary difference in both of those cases being that the majority of the nation was behind the initiative. I think most of us are behind clean energy and energy independence, but we (and I speak for Americans, not a party) don’t trust you (meaning Washington). We don’t. You’ve stabbed us in the back with your inefficiencies. You take our money and spend it without regard for our sacrifices. You don’t listen to us, and when you do, you listen to the minority and override the majority. You force things down our throats that we don’t want, all while claiming it is for the best.

Proof to me that you really have my best interest at heart and will do it reasonably and efficiently, and I will follow. Up until now, you’ve only proven that my money in my hands is better than my money in your hands.

And that’s the end of it.

As is common, I agree with much of it, disagree with much of it, and have no real opinion on the rest. I think we are wrong to black list BP. I think we are wrong to take management (and therefore responsibility) for the spill from them. I think we’re wrong to force retribution instead of seeking reconciliation. I think we are right to continue to pursue clean, independent energy as long as we can do it within our means.

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5 Responses to Obama’s Speech on the BP Oil Spill

  1. Sarah L. says:

    I heard the Netherlands offered help and he declined it. Do you know if that’s true?

  2. daveloveless says:

    I don’t, but I do know the US tends not to accept foreign help going off the idea that we can manage it ourselves. I tend to agree with that because it tends to be true, but in this case, we need every bit of help we can get, especially in the form of deep water drilling experts.

  3. Sarah L. says:

    We’ve helped so many other countries. Why couldn’t we allow them to help in this case? It’s not just our problem. Anyone who cares about the earth is going to want to help. Someone speculated that unions were getting in the way of other means of help. Don’t know if that’s true either.

  4. Sarah B. says:

    I’m confused. We don’t make people pay for their accidents? Since when? Isn’t that why I carry car insurance? Renter’s insurance? Because if I burn the place down, accidentally, of course, I am liable for it and would be required by law to pay for the fair market value to replace the building. Do I get to choose the fair market value? No. Does my landlord? No. It’s calculated using current costs to build, current property values, etc. and hopefully is fully covered by my insurance. If it’s not, I’m still liable for the difference. Why should BP be allowed to independently choose their consequences when I’m not?

    I’m also confused about the talk about not accepting foreign aid. There are 15-foreign flagged vessels involved in the clean up. We are utilizing skills from other countries and agencies including Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization and the European Union’s Monitoring and Information Centre.

    You can find up to date information at http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com the Unified Command which represents:
    BP, Transocean, USCG, NOAA, USDOD, US Fish & Wildlife, etc.

  5. daveloveless says:

    Just for clarification… No one has yet said that the US has not accepted help. Sarah (first Sarah) mentioned that she had heard, I confirmed that I had no idea, and postulated that the US often does not accept help, specifically referring to humanitarian help. While this is not necessarily a humanitarian crisis, the point potentially had broad application.

    Now to the first part…. I’m not saying that BP should have the right to independently choose their consequences. What I am saying is that Obama has removed all personal accountability/responsibility for BP. By mandating these consequences (especially the $20BB compensation fund), Obama has played mediator where no mediator was potentially needed.

    Before any of these happened, BP was, and continues to, working and providing clean up efforts. They had also began the process of compensation. While it is possibly they wouldn’t have gone as far as Obama did, that is irrelevant now, isn’t it?

    Instead of having the opportunity to constructively handle the situation on their own and potential make restitution, BP is now painted as the bad corporation that was trying to shun all responsibility for the crisis. That is a BLATANT lie that is a direct result of Obama’s mismanagement of the entire crisis, and it enforces the notion that corporations are inherently bad, which is another lie.

    Should BP be responsible? Of course, and I stated as such in my original post. Should Obama be mandating the consequences? No. At the very most, a reticent BP (which they are not, by the way) should be reprimanded in court where due process would settle matters.

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