There are very few people, on either side of the aisle, who think President Obama did himself any good in his first Oval Office speech last night.
Before we get into what we like to call the "optics" of the speech, let's stipulate that no one wants this oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to continue one second longer than necessary; and that includes the President.
Let's also stipulate, as T. Boone Pickens said on Larry King Live last night, if anyone knew how to stop this thing, they'd be in there doing it.
Then, let's stipulate that no one in U.S. Government - the Congress or the Administration - provided any oversight to the oil companies as they set about drilling deeper and deeper wells, with less and less technology or engineering data to support it.
Every time you hear someone demanding more regulation for the oil companies (or, for that matter, the major financial firms, or any other industry segment), ask them how well the government has been doing enforcing the regulations they have in hand.
Not very well.
If the employees if the Minerals Management Service; and the Securities and Exchange Commission were as adept at examining drilling plans and 10-K reports as they appear to be locating porn on the Internet we might have had neither the Bernie Madoff nor the BP oil disasters.
The fact is, no one has a clue about what is going on with the Deep Horizon well. In the beginning BP thought the leak was about 5,000 barrels per day (a barrel equals 42 gallons). The latest estimates are closer to 60,000 barrels per day.
According to the NY Times
"That is roughly 2.5 million gallons of oil a day, and it means an amount equal to the Exxon Valdez spill could be gushing from the well about every four days."
The Congress hauled the heads of the major oil companies up to Capitol Hill yesterday and to the surprise of no one, nothing was learned.
Back to the speech.
One of the AP's most senior writers, Tom Raum, wrote that Obama's pledge to leave the Gulf in better shape than before the spill "eerily echoes President George W. Bush's pledge after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild New Orleans 'higher and better.'"
Again, that dreaded comparison to Katrina.
Raum described Obama hustling back from an overnight trip to the region to make the speech from the Oval Office as:
"A piece of presidential stagecraft designed to emphasize the seriousness of the situation."