Fifty-seven days. For nearly two months Americans have watched the nation’s largest environmental disaster unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. It may not be at the forefront of every American’s mind as we head into the busy summer months, with the preoccupation of keeping children amused and planning vacations. But the images of helpless wildlife entombed in tarry crude, the heartbreaking stories of countless livelihoods lost, and the irritating nattering of incompetent politicians finally took their toll.
The President realized he could not allow the out-of-control oil spill and its ensuing public relations disaster to continue to drag down the public’s confidence in his leadership. And so he decided to use one of the president’s most powerful tools: an address to the nation.
Although it has lost much of its influence (and audience) over the decades, there is still a sense of importance amongst viewers when a president interrupts the normal course of America’s mundane activities to address the nation. Just over 32 million Americans tuned in for President Obama’s 18-minute address on Tuesday evening. Finally, the country’s leader would provide some clarity and direction in the midst of the quagmire.
Instead, Americans heard a lecture about their gluttonous consumption of energy and an embarrassing attempt to shift blame from a floundering administration.
The President began his remarks by likening the oil spill to a battle, with the oil “assaulting our shores and our citizens.” It seemed an odd analogy to use when the nation is fighting a real war against terrorists—terrorists who have increased their attacks on America in the last two years. For an administration that bends over backwards to accommodate the “rights” of terrorist suspects, likening an environmental “siege” to war plants further questions in the minds of citizens about how seriously the war against terrorism is regarded by this president.
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