David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

Primetime Address: Lights, Camera, Action???

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, June 20, 2010

Did President Barack Obama forget to bring some action to his Tuesday night primetime address?  Some say yes.  Americans have been growing increasingly frustrated over the federal government’s response (or lack thereof for some) to the Gulf Oil Crisis.

 A new Associated Press (AP) poll, released Tuesday, shows 52% of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the oil spill.  It’s becoming clear this crisis and the federal government’s response, is frighteningly reminiscent of former President George W. Bush’s Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, where the majority of Americans polled felt like Bush’s response was insufficient.

Many hoped Tuesday’s Oval Office address would contain a bit more “Obama Kick-Ass.”  [The President told a reporter recently he met with experts to learn “whose ass to kick,” in the Gulf.]

The President addressed the nation in a somber tone from the hallowed chambers of the Oval Office, comparing the efforts in the Gulf to a battle and vowing to do everything in his power to make it right.

“Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward:  what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.”  

But harsh attacks on BP were not the theme of this address.  The President obviously wanted to take a different approach.  He sounded like someone who has been there and understands what the people down there are going through because he has made several trips to the Gulf coast since the spill.

While his tone may not have been what all were hoping for, he did make it clear he will hold BP accountable for their actions.

“We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.  And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.” 

Mr. Obama used a portion of his address to send a clear message to the American people that he is taking care of business.

Yahoo! News Photo

“Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.  And this fund will not be controlled by BP.  In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.”

As promised, Mr. Obama met with BP’s CEO at the White House.  In that meeting, the President ordered BP to create a $20 billion compensation guarantee and an apology to the nation from the company.  The fund would set up a large claims fund for shrimpers, restaurant owners and others whose livelihoods depend on the once beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The White House also announced the compensation guarantee account would be led by Kenneth Feinberg, he’s the man who handled the 9/11 compensation account.



June 21, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Capitol Hill: A Week of Political Disasters


By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Sunday, June 20, 2010 

Michael Reynolds / EPA

It could be described as a political train wreck.  BP’s Chief Executive Tony Hayward infuriated members of Congress on both sides of the isle during his testimony to a House panel this week, probing into BP’s roll in the environmental meltdown in the Gulf.

Hayward seemed calm and cool under pressure but his body language gave off an arrogant, “I’m above the law” vibe.  It’s difficult to pinpoint some of the WORST public relations blunders Hayward made during his nationally televised testimony this week because there are so many to choose from. 

One of the bigger, “OPPS” moments came as Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas grilled Hayward about his knowledge of the list of problems on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig before it exploded, killing 11 workers, in April.  Hayward testified he learned about the well’s existence only weeks before the explosion. 

“With respect, sir, we drill hundreds of wells a year around the world,” Hayward responded.  But if he thought the congressman would take his cold tone lying down, he was mistaken.

“Yes, I know,” Burgess barked back.  “That’s what’s scaring me right now.”

Hayward wasn’t the only one carving “political meltdown” notches on his belt.  GOP’s top panel member, Rep. Joe Barton, used his opening statement to apologize (not once, but twice) for the pressure, he says, President Barack Obama is putting on the company to contribute to a compensation fund for Gulf residents.

Barton characterized the White House’s efforts as a “shakedown” for money to put into a “slush fund.”  He told Hayward, “I’m not speaking for anybody else.  But I apologize.”

It took just moments for the media machines to start grinding, playing sound- byte after sound- byte from lawmakers who demanded Barton make another apology–this one to the American people.

 House minority leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mike Pence issued a joint statement on behalf of the Republican Party saying,

“Congressman Barton’s statements this morning were wrong.  BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose.”

 GOP officials tell NBC NEWS, Republican leadership ordered Barton to retract his apologetic remarks, threatening to strip him of his senior rank on the House Energy and Commerce Committee if he didn’t.

 Barton complied.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment