More optics: The President is not comfortable speaking from a sitting position behind his desk. In an effort to look more engaged, he used his hands to the point they became a distraction. It would have been better to have rented a roomful of people, put them in the East Room, and have the President speak from a standing position behind a podium - a situation in which he is very comfortable and can be very effective.
Chatting with a group of senior Washington hands - Rs and Ds - last night just after the speech, someone pointed out that if Ronald Reagan were giving this speech and Mike Deaver were running the event, the speech would have been delivered from Plaquemine Parish with Billy Nungesser and a group of fishermen and shrimpers standing around him.
There was no soaring "call to action" in the speech. I said to that group, that's what happens when you have 36 hours to get it written, rather than weeks to work on a State of the Union Address.
I didn't say, but will now, it is also what happens when you don't have Peggy Noonan as your head speechwriter. Remember Reagan's "Touch the Hand of God" speech after the Challenger disaster?
The yawns generated by the President's speech are not only coming from the right. Here's how Kevin Drum, blogging for the über-liberal "Mother Jones" website put it:
"What a terrible speech … This gives pabulum a bad name … The whole point of a prime time Oval Office speech is that it announces something big. On that score, Obama failed right from the start."
And, like that.
The White House wanted to use this speech to have the American people view the President's handling of the Gulf oil spill in a new light.
If there was any light at all, it was very, very dim.
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