President Obama struck a cautiously optimistic tone on the future of the Gulf Coast today after surveying oil cleanup efforts in three states, but he warned that frustrated business owners and residents will have to be patient.
"There's going to be a harmful effect on many local businesses, and it's going to be painful for a lot of folks. Folks are going to be frustrated, and some folks are going to be angry," he said in an address in Theodore, Alabama.
"But I promise you this, that things are going to return to normal," he said. "This region that's known a lot of hardship will bounce back, just like it's bounced back before."
Earlier today the president met with the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and had lunch with several local residents to get "an absolutely clear understanding" of the economic damage from the oil spill ahead of a meeting with BP officials at the White House later this week.
Obama traveled through Mississippi, Alabama and Florida -- three affected states not included in his three previous visits -- one day before he is scheduled to address the nation on the Gulf of Mexico disaster in his first televised appearance from the Oval Office.
"We're gathering up facts, stories right now so that we have an absolutely clear understanding about how we can best present to BP the need to make sure that individuals and businesses are dealt with in a fair manner and in a prompt manner," he said at a Coast Guard station in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Obama also promised the full resources of the federal government to "make sure that communities get back on their feet," but cautioned that how long that will take remains unknown. BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig exploded April 20 and oil has been leaking from it ever since.
"The full effects of this may not be known immediately," he said of the spill. "They may not be known three months from now and may not be fully known for another six months or a year."
Tuesday's address will be Obama's first from the Oval Office, demonstrating the gravity of the Gulf coast crisis and the perils the crisis poses for his presidency.
"This is a matter that has gripped the nation, people have the right to know where we are and how we are going to move forward and what the battle plan is," Axelrod said today.
With almost seven in 10 Americans giving a negative rating to the federal response to the spill, a worse rating than that given for the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the president's political capital and his agenda are at risk.
Axelrod said the president will discuss plans to contain the oil, reorganize the Minerals and Management Services and push BP to create an escrow fund for those seeking damages from the company to be administered by an independent "master."
"We also want to make sure they are administered fairly, not slow-walked, so they don't face a phalanx of bureaucratic obstacles," he said.
The president will use the Oval Office address to show how the ongoing environmental catastrophe exemplifies the nation's need to pursue a clean energy future.