Last night, Jon Stewart covered Obama's speech and also noted a lack of specifics, though that should hardly be any kind of dealbreaker for us here. But I want to focus on his second segment, where he produced some sobering and damning video of the President promising to end our addiction to oil, and proposed specific ways to go about it.
What makes the video so sobering and damning? Because the President Jon shows in the video is actually EVERY SINGLE PRESIDENT since Nixon. Yes, folks, EVERY single one of the last eight presidents promised to end our oil addiction. Yes, even Reagan and Bush.
STEWART: We are an unstoppable oil dependency-breaking machine! Unfortunately, the machine runs on oil.
Video below the fold.
Here are the clips he played of our last eight Presidents, all talking about getting off of oil and becoming energy independent, mostly from State of the Union and Oval Office addresses to the nation.
Barack Obama: "For decades, we have known the days of cheap and accessible oil were numbered.... 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." (June 15, 2010)
George W. Bush: "This country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past." (January 31, 2006)
Bill Clinton: "We need a long-term energy strategy to maximize conservation and maximize the development of alternative sources of energy." (June 28, 2000)
George H.W. Bush: "There is no security for the United States in further dependence on foreign oil." (August 18, 1988)
Ronald Reagan: "We will continue supportive research leading to development of new technologies and more independence from foreign oil." (February 18, 1981)
Jimmy Carter: "This intolerable dependence on foreign oil..." (July 15, 1979)
Gerald Ford: "...new stand-by emergency programs to achieve the independence we want..." (January 15, 1975)
Richard Nixon: "We will break the back of the energy crisis. We will lay the foundation for our future capacity to meet America's energy needs from America's own resources." (January 30, 1974)
This is not something new. Every President says he will, and every President has thus far failed to do so. Now, Jon doesn't get into the details of why this is. You know, things like the powerful influence of the oil lobby in Congress, and the like. But given all this, Jon asked this question.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times... am I a fucking idiot?
But here's the thing. Jon then asks which president has done the most to help our environment. And closes the argument with a brilliant dig at the ignorant Tea Partiers.
Which brings us to perhaps the strangest aspect of this sad, somewhat Groundhog Day-ish saga. Of all these 8 men of incalculable power who tried and failed to get us off of oil, ONE stands head and shoulders above the others, as far as actually doing something for the environment. Who? I'll give you a hint. What's got four fingers and resigned in disgrace? This guy. (points to picture of Nixon)
He created the Environmental Protection Agency. He signed the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Marine Mammal Protection Act. When the Cuyahoga River was on fire in 1969, he put it out with his own urine! But even Nixon couldn't get us off oil. And this was a guy who, by the way, was not afraid to bend the rules to get things done. Couldn't get it done! Because, you see, it turns out Nixon had one major fatal flaw. No, not delusional paranoia coupled with living in an ethical netherworld, no. You know why Nixon couldn't get this done?
NIXON: We will establish a new system of high quality health care available to every American in a dignified manner and at a price he can afford. (January 30, 1974)
Because Richard Nixon was a Communist.
So there are forces at work here more powerful than any President. You could make Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich the President, and we STILL wouldn't be able to get off of oil. I think we need to recognize what those forces are, and do what we can to change it, because we are only fooling ourselves if we think Obama can simply bully BP and the other oil companies or wave a magic wand into getting us off of oil. Frankly, as Jon showed, no President has that power. A dictator would, but I don't think we want to go there.
We can start by pressuring Congress to pass the climate change bill, and push them to make it as strong as possible (which can still get enough votes). Yeah, it's not going to be everything we wanted. Yeah, some will call it a corporate sell-out, just like they said about the health care bill. But we have to begin somewhere, and no, this CANNOT wait another year or two or three or forty. Any of you who think we can get a bill that will force the oil companies out of existence are not thinking rationally. They will stick around, and they will throw up every roadblock and obstacle they can against us to fight meaningful reform. They'll be firing their own "junk shot" at us. We will have to fight them tooth and nail every step of the way. Are you guys up for the challenge?