Obama Getting Back on Track

by Michael Sean Winters

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I noted yesterday that President Obama’s speech was off-target, although I liked his interest in the Rite of Blessing of the Fleets. But, there was another religious angle that he has failed to deploy effectively: Religious groups nationwide are deeply and profoundly concerned about environmental protection. Groups like Faith in Public Life have held conference calls with religious leaders in support of climate change legislation. The USCCB is on board. Last January, in his annual World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the entire speech to the need to protect the environment.

Note to Obama speechwriters: Instead of “eco-system” and “environment” say “Creation.” Voters who are animated by environmental concerns are already with the President. But, the word “creation” resonated with those religiously motivated swing voters who voted against Kerry in 2004 and for Obama in 2008.

Now, if I had a choice between a good speech and a $20 billion escrow fund from BP, I would take the money. Yesterday, the President began to make up for his less than stellar performance the night before. And, I do not know why some on the liberal blogosphere have their pants all twisted in a knot over the chairman of BP saying he was concerned about “the small people.” As a matter of course, we should be generous in interpreting the words of someone for whom English is not a first language. Second, so far from being an example of corporate aristocratic pretensions, the exact meaning of his sentence contradicts the idea that he is trying to help those who do not have such pretensions.

If I were the President, I would get down to the Gulf soon and preside over the first distribution of some of that 20 billion. I would call the other oil companies together and insist that whatever boons and other equipment they have that might be of use be sent to the Gulf immediately. I would talk to the American people again, not in a prime time speech but in a 20 second clip, about what steps are being taken, on what timeline, to cap the damned well. This is a time for the President to be seen as a man of action, not as a man of words.

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