BP Spill Victims Angry - Want Action

BP Spill Victims Angry - Want Action

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President Barack Obama says he gets it. He stood inside the White House last Thursday and took responsibility for the largest oil spill in U.S. history, telling Americans that he understands their anger over BP’s devastating environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Was Obama convincing? Perhaps. Obama says he’s angry and frustrated by BP’s incompetence, but Americans want to see a visceral reaction from Obama; they want their president to speak as fervently as those impacted by this unprecedented crisis.

It’s not Obama’s style to pound the podium or shake his fist; he’s a more measured commander-in-chief who prefers to show controlled leadership instead of unbridled passion.

But sometimes a crisis situation calls for the low-key Obama to pump up the volume – and the time for passionate outrage is now.

“I’m fully engaged,” Obama said in a measured tone during a White House news conference. “Those who think we were slow in our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred. The notion that government is sitting on the sidelines …is simply not true.”

And so the president is facing perhaps the most challenging crisis of his presidency, and on Thursday he appeared controlled, concerned – and somewhat troubled.

All for good reason.

As Obama spoke to reporters at the White House, BP scientists were frantically trying to seal the massive oil leak by pumping 50,000 pounds of mud into the site to stop the oil flow – and it wasn’t working. BP officials said they’d need at least another 24 hours to determine if the untested “top kill” procedure would work 5,000 feet beneath the sea.

BP may have mislead the public – or outright lied. The oil leak is now estimated at twice the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster – a runaway geyser that is spewing oil at a rate of at least 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day, not the 5,000 barrels that was initially reported.

For Obama, the political fallout could be disasterous.

“This is what I wake up to in the morning,” Obama said, “and what I go to bed thinking about at night.”

When Obama wakes up Friday morning, he'll be heading to Louisiana to inspect the oil spill first-hand and where he'll get an earful from residents whose livelihood in commercial fishing has been jeopardized perhaps for years to come.

Angry residents in Louisiana will be waiting to hear from Obama about fixing the leak, cleaning up the oil spill that’s killing fish, destroying marshes, wreaking havoc on the underwater environment and shutting down commercial fishing businesses.

It’s critical that Obama show up Friday. The trip is probably a few days overdue, but Obama should go with his gut instinct. He shouldn’t always wait for advice from his staff in a crisis situation. He reads the newspapers, he gets daily updates, and he watches the 24-hour news cycle unfold on television. It’s his call.

Obama needs to prove that he's a president who is about action because in politics, perception is everything. Monitoring the oil spill from the Oval Office in Washington is not perceived by some as decisive leadership.

Even some of his most ardent supporters have been critical of the president; people like James Carville, a Democratic strategist and resident of New Orleans, also known as the Ragin' Cajun.

"The president of the United States could've come down here; he could've been involved with the families of these 11 people" who died on the rig after an explosion, Carville said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "He could be commandeering tankers and making BP bring tankers in and clean this up. They could be deploying people to the coast right now. He could be with the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard ... doing something about these regulations. These people are crying. They're begging for something down here, and it just looks like he's not involved in this."

Obama is being peppered with questions about the oil spill from many constituents – including his daughter, Malia, who also asked the president for an update.

"You know, when I woke up this morning and I'm shaving, Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?'" he said.

And in a recent White House meeting with his senior staff, Obama reportedly became so frustrated over BP’s ongoing ineptitude that he shouted.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama said during the meeting in the Oval Office.

Perhaps Obama should take that kind of passion and language to Louisiana Friday, where commercial seamen who are wondering when they can fish again will be listening closely to the president's every word.