The Speech Obama Didn’t Give Last Night

About a week ago I got a call from President Obama’s Senior Advisor David Axelrod, asking me to write a speech about the BP oil disaster. “The President needs to find a way to quiet his critics, re-assure the people that we’re taking care of the situation, and motivate Congress to pass a comprehensive energy bill”, he said. “And we’ve got 15 minutes of air time from the Oval Office next Tuesday night. Give us something with a little meat on the bones.” So I got busy immediately, sent a draft to Axe, made a few revisions, and sent in my freelancer invoice which was promptly paid.

So imagine my surprise when I watched the President on TV last night delivering a very watered-down version of what I had written. I guess that’s what happens when Rahm shuts off the tele-prompter. In case you were wondering why the President decided to go “off message”, here’s the original text of the speech I had written for him:

Good evening. I apologize for preempting Game 6 of the NBA Finals, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al-Qaida wherever it exists. It’s all still W’s fault, but we’re doing the best we can.

And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens, and ruining the summer vacations of top oil executives across the globe.

On April 20, an explosion ripped through BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Is it any coincidence that this happened on “4/20”? Maybe the rig bosses looked the other way while all the workers took extended Scooby-snack breaks. Maybe not. Regardless, this is a tragedy of epic proportions.

Because there’s never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of corporate PR professionals. That’s why, just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge, a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s secretary of energy. The only thing we left out was a pair of scissors to cut through all the red tape, but that’s neither here nor there.

As a result of these efforts, we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And as usual they are thumbing their noses at us.

Already, this oil spill is the worst disaster America has ever faced since the election of W in 2000. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, or Dick Cheney, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days.

But make no mistake: We will fight about this spill in the Federal government for as long it takes to win in the public opinion polls. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused, unless they just go belly-up and walk away from it completely.

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 people forget about this tragedy as quickly as possible before the 2012 election season.

First, the cleanup.

From the very beginning of this crisis, the Federal government has been recovering from the exhaustive in-fighting over the healthcare reform battle, and many members of Congress have been left politically impotent. I put Admiral Thad Allen in charge so we could show another military face on TV. People always feel better when there’s a military person in charge, so I called Thad. He’s about to retire anyway, and he could care less about how this all turns out.

Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf, and thousands of political pundits are broadcasting from the oil-soaked beaches to drive their ratings up. And I’ve authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast to shut them down. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the criticisms of how we are handling this crisis, and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming and other comparatively worthless methods. Over 5.5 million feet of boom has been laid across the water to make it appear as if we are stopping the approaching oil. Perception is reality. And reality is definitely a bitch right now!

As the cleanup continues, we will offer to make any appearances and photo-ops that our coastal states may need to feel like something is actually getting done.

Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. John McCain will surely be up my rear-end about how he would have handled this differently. Doesn’t anyone remember all his “drill-baby-drill” crap? Michelle Bachman is bound to say something stupid and Rush Limbaugh will promote it. And even Keith Olbermann will get in my face too. I can’t win no matter what, so eff them all. I gotta do what I gotta do.

But we have to recognize that, despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to my legacy. And sadly, no matter how effective my response is, there will be more criticism and more damage before this siege is done.

That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have hated folks like me. Educated African-Americans are not appreciated below the Mason-Dixon line, but now they’re all looking at me like “please come down here and help us! we need you Barack!” And I’m like, “Oh really? I thought you wanted less government intervention? I thought you all said I was a Communist Nazi Fascist from Kenya? How do you like me now?” Please!

I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists might start coming back. The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost; well, yeah, I guess it is about the money they’ve lost.

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. We’re going to have a beer with Joe Biden just like when we met with Dr. Gates and that racist cop from Massachusetts. Except this time me and Joe are really going to be secretly downing Coors Cutter while Tony Hayward gets tanked. Then I’ll call in the secret service to kick his ass.

But this escrow 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. So we’ve tapped all the best financial minds from Wall Street to devise a few “investment strategies” that will increase the funds “overnight”. I might as well tap into the brain power of those unregulated crooks before we actually get some new laws passed.

Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of political corruption that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats from the criminal activity of an unregulated oil industry.

And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Anyone remember those hurricanes? Remember–those were W’s fault too.

Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, who’s also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents. And BP will find some way NOT to pay for the impact this spill has had on the region. With all those competing interests trying to work together, the big-oil guys are sure to slip out the back door and lawyer-up.

The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again.

A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe, that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken. Holy cow–talk about bad timing! No way I can embrace that idea now, so I’m about to backpedal like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk at the MTV Video Music Awards!

I’ve established another national commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. That’s not going to stop the critics from calling me “too wonk-ish”, but it will buy me some time. Hey, it’s better than me getting out there and saying “mission accomplished”, right? At least I am being honest.

Now, one place we’ve already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service. We’ve slashed their “cocaine-and-whores” budgets by 50%, so they need to wake up and realize that the party is over. And I am not talking about the Democratic party!

One of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that, no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will do everything in their power to stand in the way.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s centurylong addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we drove bigger cars and trucks like Hummers and Escalades and F-150s. Republicans called it “patriotic”, and Americans embraced it.

Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by FOX News.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean-energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. And each day China owns more of us. In fact, Michelle just finished boxing up all the furniture in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House and Fed Ex-ed it all to Beijing. It’s getting serious folks.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny. I mean, those kids are all unemployed now because of the economy, so they should get down to the gulf and pick up an oil-soaked bird and start scrubbing. And while they’re at it, they better be thinking of how to build a corn-powered car, because gasoline is gonna be $18 per gallon in a few more years.

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time. But over the last year- and-a-half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jump-start the clean-energy industry.

As we speak, scientists and researchers are discovering clean-energy technologies that someday will lead to entire new political in-fighting by Congressmen and Congresswomen who had their pockets lined by oil companies that refuse to let go of their stranglehold on the world. Good luck with that.

You know, when I was a candidate for this office, I never thought this job was going to suck as bad as it does right now. So I laid out a set of principles that I thought would be a layup for a Democratic majority to get accomplished. But I didn’t count on deadbeats like Joe Lieberman to screw things up, and now all the spotlight is on me. Let me be clear: I didn’t blow up the Deepwater oil rig. Joe Lieberman did.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party — as long as the meetings can be televised like when I took all those Republicans to the woodshed on healthcare. No one’s gonna show me up on TV.

But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big to fail. We took care of that idea when we gave out the TARP funds, so my guess is that if we throw enough money at the problem, then something will work out. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there. And if we don’t, then it’ll be the next President’s problem.

It is a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now. And speaking of faith, it’s time for me to throw a Hail-Mary pass and end this show on a note about the one thing that all Americans agree on: religion.

So please join me in prayer that someone will figure out a way to clean up this mess that BP caused. Pray that we can stop the leak. Pray that we can restore the ecosystem. Pray that we can all come together to get through this crisis. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in a little prayer that Kobe has a big game tonight against the Celtics and takes this series to a game 7. I really need to unwind and there’s no way I’ll be able to slip past the press pool to watch game 6 tonight.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

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