While we all waited 4 hours yesterday for the President’s 20 minute meeting with BP executives to end yesterday, the talk amongst White House reporters was about why the President gave his much-panned Oval Office address on Tuesday, rather than after the meeting with BP execs. Keith Olbermann chewed over the same question on Countdown last night, but I think the results of that meeting make the answer obvious.
From the start of the BP Oil Disaster, a key goal has been to lift the liability cap to a figure of $10 billion, and going into the meeting, there were also reports that BP would consider suspending this quarter’s dividend payments, in exchange for a cooling of anti-BP rhetoric. The President emerged from the meeting with a $20 billion escrow commitment, and a suspension of the next three dividend payments. I asked Robert Gibbs if there had been any giveback on the President’s part.
Tommy Christopher: …last week there were reports that BP was considering suspending one of their dividend payments and that they wanted to get * a cooling of the rhetoric from the White House. And it looks like now today you got three dividend payments suspended. Was there any giveback* — was there any talk at all about cooling the anti-BP rhetoric in the meeting?
MR. GIBBS: None that I know of, no.
MS. BROWNER: No.
So, the President went into the meeting and got way more than anyone was asking for, and gave up exactly zilch. While Gibbs downplayed the adversarial nature of the meeting, clearly there was a point A that took 4 hours to become point B.
Giving the speech after the meeting would have been useless, overshadowed by the news of the meeting. But by giving the speech beforehand, the President got 2 bites at the apple, and turned the “he makes good speeches” meme on its head. In this case, his actions spoke much louder than his words.
It would be crediting Obama with too much genius to say that he deliberately made his speech mediocre, but it seems to have worked out very well in this case.
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