16
Jun
10

the (new) worst case scenario and obama’s speech

tragically big

Well, the catastrophe in the Gulf is still gushing its way into the country’s environmental history. A couple of us at the Bus were trying to come up with an environmental catastrophe of similar scale to which we could compare the Deepwater Horizon spill, but even the worst stuff- Chernobyl, Hanford, Three Mile Island- didn’t really compare.

Hanford is a long-term thing that has a lot of nasty residual effects- Deepwater Horizon has that quality, but it also has a quality of devastating an entire regional economy immediately. Chernobyl did a lot of that- the eponymous city was completely abandoned as a result of the near-meltdown- but the region wasn’t necessarily a critical component of the international economy. Three Mile Island had tremendous policy implications- the US nuclear industry was essentially frozen as a result of the accident- but no lives were lost and the region is doing pretty OK, actually. None of this is intended to diminish the significance of any of these disasters, especially not in the case of those whom the accidents directly affect, but the real takeaway is that Deepwater Horizon is unlike anything. It is the absolute worst case scenario.

Was, rather. Noted Bus staffer Toby said something to the effect of “when you get hit with the worst case scenario, it’s no longer the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario gets worse.” Deepwater Horizon is so mindboggling as-is that it’s hard to think of the devastation getting worse, but if we were to have another explosion and subsequent leak and then say all the slick now floating in the Gulf got lit up with a match- it’s safe to say that would probably be worse. The incomprehensible quality of the new worst case scenario just goes to show how horrible the current tragedy is.

Which is just a roundabout way of saying that President Obama’s speech was kind of a big deal:

Such a big deal, in fact, that people were really let down about the speech’s contents (here’s the transcript in full). See what they said after the jump….

A lot of people wanted Obama to show more emotion, as has been the case for a number of weeks. Other people found his martial imagery problematic. Still more people wanted him to tie the Deepwater Horizon spill to climate change. But the biggest segment of pundits, including this writer, want Obama to talk more about how he wears Air Force Ones on Air Force One.

The point is, though, that people are severely underwhelmed (see the list of useful linkage at the bottom, compiled by soon-to-be-Hella-Bus-fashion-blogger and eagle-eyed media watcher Helena), if not somewhat/greatly enraged by the speech. The first fact of the Obama presidency so far has always been sky-high expectations; the second story has always been frustration and disappointment in results or the frustrations of the political system (see the healthcare debate), especially from Obama’s liberal and progressive base.

Still...

For this writer’s not-very-noted opinion, there’s a feeling of ambivalence tempered by moderate approval. Yeah, it would be nice for Obama to rant and rave like the rest of us, but that’s never been his style. It was frustrating to have climate change shortchanged, but the simple reality is that most of the country doesn’t worry too much about climate change and isn’t necessarily thinking about how much that long-term environmental disaster affects their daily lives- making a lot of Presidental allusions to the subject something along the lines of self-defeat.

Instead, I prefer to focus on the positives of the speech: the MMS is getting reformed, BP is going to pay, and energy reform moves to the top of the agenda. Though oil keeps gushing into the Atlantic, gallon by gallon.

Commentary on Obama’s speech:

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