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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Failing to Meet Impossible Expectations

In my preview of the president’s Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil spill, I ran through the many complex points he needed to make, and then sarcastically mentioned that he had twenty whole minutes to make them all.
Well, he didn’t quite use all twenty minutes, and while he made gestures in the direction of the many points he needed to make, he didn’t seal the deal on most of them. Most particularly, he was very vague about the responsibility of conservatives (most notably the Bush/Cheney administration) for encouraging reckless behavior by oil companies like BP; wasn’t very forthcoming about missteps his own administration might have made in the immediate wake of the disaster; and perfunctory about what he was asking Congress to do on climate change legislation.
In other words, it was one of those performances that probably just confirmed preexisting feelings about the president rather than changing any minds or creating any immediate challenges to his enemies. It did serve as a reminder that even on a bad night Barack Obama is ten times more articulate than his predecessor, but that’s a bar too low, just as the bar set for this particular speech was much too high.

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