As I type this, the president is wrapping his most recent trip to the despoiled Gulf and preparing for his first Oval Office speech. I am sure that somewhere between Air Force One and the White House, speech writers, spinmeisters and political advisers are going over every word and inflection of tonight's speech. Nuances are being nuanced. Synonyms are being examined. Inflections are being inflected.
This is wrong.
I sincerely hope that Obama does not go the typical and predictable route of a carefully crafted speech designed to satisfy all while irritating none. This is not a situation that calls for a rally type speech or a sermon from the desk. No, this calls for the kind of leadership America looks for in a time of crisis.
Over the years, presidents have had to face awful disasters. And they have had to explain them to the American people and describe the presidential actions being taken. More than ever, in these moments, all of America wants to hear a strong and proactive leader. We want our president to take charge.
Perhaps the best example of that in recent history is former President Bush's declaration from the rubble of Ground Zero. Bush knew that he did not have the magic answer. He knew that the culprits were still out there somewhere. In fact he knew that he did not know exactly who did it or where they were. But he knew one thing.
George Bush knew that the American people wanted their president to take the lead and declare what we all felt - we were going to get the people that did this to us. And he went out without a written speech, without teleprompters and he gave us just that. A rallying point.
Obama has that chance tonight. He has an opportunity to do what presidents have done in times of crisis - take charge. Show the true power of the office.
It is always nice to be diplomatic and thoughtful. It matters when trying to pass complex legislation or soothe allies. This is not that time.
Our Gulf coast is being deluged with tides of oil and dispersant. The people responsible are known. The time for pleasant chats and working relationships has ended. But only Obama can say this with authority. Only the President of the United States can declare that the time for talk has ended. That the time for allowing BP to call the shots is done. That we are going to finally commit our resources.
But not with a nuanced speech or pretty words. The use of Oval Office speeches has always been sparing. They denote a seriousness that is unequaled in American life. The image of a president behind the desk addressing America has a power to it that is almost immeasurable.
It takes plain solid talk. This is not about England or Canada. This is not about the stupid partisan nonsense being served up even now by Congress and the pundocracy. This is about millions of Americans who are paying for BP's malfeasance and what our government is going to do about it.
If I could offer one tip to the president as he finalizes this speech it is this: Remember the signs you saw yesterday in the Gulf region. Remember that the same people that despise FEMA are now begging for you to send them in. Take that as a symbol of just how bad the mess is in the region. They want FEMA back.
And, just this once, forget the fancy words, overpaid advisers and political angling. Just get up there and say it plain and simple. And strong.
Like the rest of America, I await his words. They better be good.
I am offering shirts with this design and will be sending the profits directly to the Plaquemines Parish Fund that is set up to help the folks most hurt by this mess.
I spoke to the good folks at Plaquemines and I have to say that for people living a horror show, they are some of the nicest and most grateful people you would ever want to talk to.
Please help out and get the message out at the same time.
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