Analysis: Obama seeks to shift tone, show control on spill

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama used his first Oval Office national address on Tuesday to try to show he is on top of the oil spill crisis, rally the country around energy reform, and reassure the public that the Gulf region will recover.

The disaster is one of the biggest challenges to his presidency so far.

Obama, wearing a blue tie and sitting behind his wooden desk, looked directly into the camera during his 16-minute televised speech and spoke in calm, reassuring tones. He did not show anger. He did not admit mistakes. He did urge Americans to get behind a push for energy legislation.

Here is a look at what he did and did not achieve:

* Raising the stakes. The Oval Office location of Obama’s speech was meant to give weight to his words, using a formal setting to prove that the spill has become his and the administration’s top priority.

That worked. Obama came across as serious and engaged. The timing of the address, however — nearly two months after the spill began — may leave room for critics to say that engagement has taken too long to show through.

* Shifting the tone. Obama was criticized initially for not showing enough emotion or anger about the spill. Then he took hits for going too far — wondering aloud “whose ass to kick” about the disaster and heightening political rhetoric that some analysts said contributed to BP’s share price fall.

On Tuesday he kept his emotions in check and projected a calm, solemn tone. He stayed seated, as is typical for such an address, and used his hands to gesticulate when he wanted to add emphasis to a point.

That tone may come in handy on Wednesday when he meets with BP officials, whom he needs to get the gushing well plugged.

* Articulating a plan. The president said he asked the Secretary of the Navy to develop a long-term plan to restore the Gulf Coast. He did not lay out details of how that would look but said it would include states, local communities, businesses and residents. Obama emphasized that BP would be responsible for funding the cleanup and the recovery.

* Defending the response. The president, who was critical of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, for failing to acknowledge mistakes, did not offer any major mea culpas for the government’s response to the spill. He reiterated that the government had been in charge from day one. He also pledged, again, to reform the Minerals Management Service, the agency that has been faulted for lax regulation of offshore drilling.

* Advancing legislation. Obama said the United States could not afford to wait to address its larger problems with energy, especially its dependence on imported fossil fuels. He pledged to look at ideas from Republicans and Democrats on the issue.

But Obama did not lay out a specific time frame for passing energy and climate change legislation in the Senate.

Republicans largely oppose the measure. Obama has said before he would work hard to find the 60 votes necessary to pass it. He did not repeat that pledge on Tuesday and he did not talk about putting a price on carbon — code for tackling greenhouse gases that are blamed for causing climate change.

The White House says he still supports making industry have to pay a price for its pollution.

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(Editing by Eric Walsh)

Analysis: Obama seeks to shift tone, show control on spill