What Obama Must Do in Oval Office Address

High expectations for the first such speech of his presidency

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On Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. President Obama will, for the first time in his presidency, address the nation from the Oval Office. He will discuss the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the response so far, and his plan of action going forward. Here's what commentators are expecting and urging the speech to address.

  • Confront the American Oil Addiction  Politics Daily's Walter Shapiro says Obama must "confront the environmental consequences of America's three-decade failure to resolve its serious energy problem. Far more than the president's pedestrian East Room press conference in late May, this speech probably will be what voters remember when they assess how Obama handled the tragedy of oil poured onto the troubled waters of the Gulf of Mexico." Though "pleading" for cap and trade legislation would be a waste of time, "Obama does need to make the case that this is the moment for America as a nation to confront our insatiable thirst for oil."
  • Rally America For New Oil Policies  Center for American Progress climate chief Daniel Weiss prescribes that "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." Weiss lists seven proposals to "reduce oil use and pollution."
  • Draw Parallel With Economy  The New York Times' Jackie Calmes writes, "In the year and a half since Mr. Obama became president at the height of the worst recession since the Great Depression, he has repeatedly tried to balance a message of hope, amid signs that the economy is mending, with a frank concession that recovery will continue to be painfully slow. Now the president must strike the same sort of balance in talking to the nation about the oil spill."
  • Prove Connection to Gulf Residents  Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley tells Politics Daily, "This is his fourth visit to the Gulf and he is making many speeches in the region. ... What he has to do is show he has collected anecdotes, facts and eyewitness accounts and bring them back to Washington and use the ultimate bully pulpit, the Oval Office prime time address to the nation as his venue."
  • Rise Above Oil Spill to Address Bigger Issues  The Atlantic's James Fallows asks, "Can he match Ike? By which I mean, can he begin using this moment to do what the country really, truly, most urgently and lastingly needs? I am not talking about demonstrating his emotional 'outrage' or 'toughness' about the problem. I mean using this catastrophe the way Dwight Eisenhower used the shock of Sputnik's launch in 1957, to rouse the nation to deal with problems it should have addressed decades earlier."
  • Will He Push Energy Reform?  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes, "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." Ambinder predicts a likely possibility could be, "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."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.