May 302010
 
In January 2009, President of the United State...
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By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

It took almost the entire press conference at the White House on Thursday for President Obama to find his voice in responding to the oil disaster in the gulf — and it is probably no accident that it seemed like the only unrehearsed moment. The president was trying to convey why he takes this problem so seriously, when he noted:

“When I woke this morning and I’m shaving and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, ‘Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?’ Because I think everybody understands that when we are fouling the Earth like this, it has concrete implications — not just for this generation, but for future generations. I grew up in Hawaii where the ocean is sacred. And when you see birds flying around with oil all over their feathers and turtles dying, that doesn’t just speak to the immediate economic consequences of this; this speaks to how are we caring for this incredible bounty that we have. And so sometimes when I hear folks down in Louisiana expressing frustrations, I may not always think that their comments are fair. On the other hand, I probably think to myself, ‘These are folks who grew up fishing in these wetlands and seeing this as an integral part of who they are.’ And to see that messed up in this fashion would be infuriating.”

And a child shall lead them. …

This oil leak is not President Obama’s fault. Stopping the spill is BP’s responsibility; it both caused it and it has the best access to the best technology to plug it. Of course, as the nation’s C.E.O., Mr. Obama has to oversee the cleanup, and he has been on top of that. His most important job, though, is one he has yet to take on: shaping the long-term public reaction to the spill so that we can use it to generate the political will to break our addiction to oil. In that job, the most important thing Mr. Obama can do is react to this spill as a child would — because it is precisely that simple gut reaction, repeated over and over, speech after speech, that could change our national conversation on energy.

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