Obama faces gusher of criticism

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 17, 2010; 10:10 AM

President Obama has finally united the country.

Everyone hated the speech.

Now when I say "everyone," I am talking about the people who pop off about public affairs for a living. It is entirely possible that many Americans thought the Oval Office address on Tuesday evening was a perfectly fine appearance by a commander-in-chief struggling with a difficult problem.

But the pundits found Obama's performance as pathetic as the lame effort by the Boston Celtics that followed in Game 6 of the finals.

The usual prime-time predictability -- panned by Fox, praised on MSNBC -- was missing. Chris, Keith and Rachel all ripped the speech with varying degrees of fervor.

As someone who thought the speech wasn't all that bad, I ask this question: What was Obama supposed to do?

If he had been less upbeat about the future, he would have been criticized for being too pessimistic and dragging everyone down.

If he had attacked BP more vigorously, he would have drawn flak for being anti-business.

If he had raised his voice and banged the desk, he would have been called too angry.

If he had failed to talk about an energy plan for the future, he would have been chided for having no vision.

If he had laid out what he wants in an environmental bill, he would have been faulted for boring the country with legislative details.

And maybe that was the problem. With the spillcam showing oil still pouring into the Gulf, nothing Obama said could be truly reassuring. He was notably short on detail. And he didn't really make much news, beyond the new head of MMS and yet another blue-ribbon commission. There was no takeaway for journalists to move the debate beyond you still haven't plugged the hole, daddy. So maybe the Oval Office setting and the request for network time simply raised expectations too high.

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