Obama May Go 'Middle Big' in BP Address

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I'm pulling this out of last night's Night Beat with a bit of augmentation.

Aside from regulation, a strong confrontational tone against BP, and an acknowledgment of reality, the White House is remaining mum on whether the President will use the 20 minutes the networks have given him to call for -- and push for -- a comprehensive energy policy. One clue: Is the DNC's Organizing for America readying an energy push? 

Yesterday's email from the President to his list may have been a trial balloon, for "we're certainly going to direct people's energy to it who are interested in the issue as appropriate," says a party official, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the "Go Big" position.

Whatever the President calls for Tuesday, the Senate hopes he has the votes for it. And House Democrats hope he makes clear distinctions between Democrats and Republicans AND puts pressure on the Senate to "Go Big." On Thursday, Senate Democrats meet to discuss the future of energy legislation, and the White House hopes that the speech tonight will fortify them, to some degree.

If the Center for American Progress really is pulling the strings on the President's energy policy, then POTUS will Go Medium Big: check out this memo from Dan Weiss, CAP's director of climate strategy: 

President Obama must use this moment to rally Americans to support a sweeping oil reform agenda that permanently changes the way big oil does business. This means building public demand for standards and investments that deeply cut the $1 billion per day spent on foreign oil, ending tax loopholes for big oil companies, and beginning to crack down on global warming pollution.

If "Go Big" means a strong push for carbon pricing, then this would be the middle ground -- a speech that focuses on the oil industry, pollution reduction (including renewable standards and CAFE standard enhancement), lots of money for relief and reconstruction, and an assumption of responsibility for the clean-up.

A White House official e-mails:

Tonight's speech comes at an inflection point in the oil spill -- and the President will outline the plan going forward. First, he'll lay out how we will deal with the oil that has leaked and what must be done to both cleanup now and ultimately restore the Gulf. Second, he will outline the steps being taken to help and protect those suffering economically as a result of this disaster, particularly in the claims process. Third, he will outline the changes he believes are necessary to ensure that a disaster such as this never happens again. Last, he will talk about what our fundamental energy approach must be going forward to reduce our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. President Obama understands the challenges and has a clear plan to meet them.
Some frank talk

: the problem is bigger than everyone thought. The government was slower than it could have been in appreciating the magnitude of the disaster. The leak will not be capped until August. BP will pay for most of it. A lot of people are going to suffer and the government will do everything we can to help them. But it will be a long time before we get back to normal. In the meantime, we're going to do everything possible to make sure that something like that can't happen again.

White House aides use words like "forward-looking" to describe the speech and describe its trajectory in tone from sobriety to optimism about the future.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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