Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Energy Speech

OK, first of all, I only listened to it on the radio.  I can report that my impressions were about the same as (from what I can tell) everyone else's, so I don't think a lot was lost in translation.  I'll do bullet points:

1.  I think Andrew Sprung got it just about right.  On the oil spill, it was adequate; on the bill formerly known as energy/climate, it was a dud, although mostly in a forgettable sense, not in a self-damaging sense.

2.  And Sprung is right: outside of (or at least ever since) the ill-fated run for the House of Representatives many years ago, "Obama only fights for what he thinks he can get."

3.  I have a sense that for all his reputation, Barack Obama has a history of needing a few passes at a new format before he really nails it.  I'm thinking about the (presidential nomination) debates, his speeches to the Joint Session of Congress, and perhaps presidential press conferences.  An obvious counterexample would be Democratic National Convention speeches...don't know if that's really a different format than other large political rally televised set pieces, and how much experience if any he had with those before the 2004 address. 

4.  To repeat what I and other political scientists said before the health care speech last year -- there's a lot less going on here than meets the eye.  These speeches don't really matter very much.  He's fighting a spin war on the oil spill, and to the extent that matters this is part of a series of markers he's laying down to convince opinion leaders open to convincing that he and the federal government are doing a good job.  On the energy/climate bill...what matters more than anything he said is what happens next (and I'll do a follow-up item on that).

5.  Worth reading anyway: Jonathan Chait, Ezra Klein, Kevin Drum

6.  Not actually relevant, but needs to be said anyway: the Schoolhouse Rock "Energy Blues" is two or three orders of magnitude worse than, really, any other song in the entire original run of the series. 


  1. You listened on the radio? Did Nixon win?

  2. Are you counting the Scooter Computer and Mr. Chips ones as part of the original run? Even if you don't count those, I think the deficit one--Tyrannosaurus Debt--may be as bad as the Energy Blues.


  3. What I am learning as that the only good president is an ex-president. He is flailing around the kiddie pool just like W, Clinton, and H.W. did in their first terms.

  4. Nice, Seth. V -- no, none of those you mentioned were part of the original run. The money ones were later editions.

    I swear, kids these days...

  5. I haven't read the speech, but from the commentaries I'm struck by a certain similarity to this notorious column by Sarah Palin, from about a year ago:

    At the time I thought Palin looked the utter fool by discussing a climate change bill without mentioning climate change. But now ultra-smart Obama has gone and done the same.

    I'm guessing internal polling on both sides is showing 'climate change' not playing well with hoi polloi.

    And, I must admit I've been underestimating Palin's political savvy. I still don't think she has a chance to win the Republican presidential nomination.

  6. Professor, any thoughts as to why the speech was given the night before the meeting with BP and not after, now that they have $20 bn etc. etc. to tout? Wouldn't that have worked better?

  7. Michael,

    No real clue about that. Perhaps they weren't confident that they could get BP to go along? Perhaps there were other timing issues? Don't know.


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