• Politics

The President’s Spill Speech: The Target Audiences

2 minute read
Michael Scherer

President Obama used his first Oval Office address to show resolve about the Gulf oil crisis and try to unstick energy legislation in Congress. Obama was targeting several audiences at once:

Audience: Congressional Democrats
Obama’s Pitch: I’ll fix the Gulf and reach Republicans; you figure out what kind of bill you can pass.
Upshot: The White House effectively bails on pricing carbon before November’s elections.

Audience: Congressional Republicans
Obama’s Pitch: The bazaar is open for business; bring me your ideas.
Upshot: Obama knows he needs GOPers on board for a shot at a significant law.

Audience: Green groups
Obama’s Pitch: Sometimes half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.
Upshot: Like liberals who accepted reality by backing health care reform without single payer, many enviros recognize that a true energy revolution is going to have to wait.

(See TIME’s video “Oil Spill Anxiety on the Bayou.”)

Audience: Left-wing commentators
Obama’s Pitch: I get it, and I’m in the game.
Upshot: Their fierce, unforeseen disappointment at Obama’s lack of specifics and passion causes a surprising rupture.

Audience: Right-wing commentators
Obama’s Pitch: None.
Upshot: Their intense denunciation of everything Obama during a crisis shows the opposition’s virulence.

Audience: BP
Obama’s Pitch: My boot is still on your neck. Rinse. Repeat.
Upshot: Managing the BP problem will take up a lot of presidential time for the foreseeable future.

Audience: American people
Obama’s Pitch: I am not yet prepared to enunciate the sacrifices required of you.
Upshot: Americans are still addicted to fossil fuels and cheap gas.

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