President Obama: I Take Responsibility

By Cullen Dirner

May 27, 2010 6:21pm

“My job is to get this fixed,” President Obama said today, insisting he and the federal government have been urgently on the case and fully engaged from the very beginning of this disaster.

“I take responsibility,” he told reporters in the East Room of the White House. “It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.”

To those wondering who is in charge, the president said “BP is operating at our direction.  Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance."

Mr. Obama said he understood the criticisms from those in the Gulf who fear not enough is being done.

“If you're living on the coast and you see this sludge coming at you, you are going to be continually upset, and from your perspective, the response is going to be continually inadequate until it actually stops,” he said.

But he insisted the government has been on the case from day one.

“Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts,” he said.

Critics say some proposals to fend off the environmental damage have not been given urgency or in some cases acknowledgment. It was it not until today for instance that the Army Corps of Engineers approved in part the more than 2-week old request from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal  to build outer-island barriers.

The president said everything is being given consideration. “If the question is…’Are we doing everything perfectly out there?’ then the answer is, absolutely not. We can always do better,” the president said.

One White House official said the disaster opened the president eyes as to the risks involved in drilling
“On a whole bunch of fronts, you had a complacency when it came to what happens in the worst-case scenario,” Mr. Obama observed.

Today he announced he was

*imposing tough new regulations for future drilling

*suspending exploration at two sites off the coast of Alaska and drilling on 33 deepwater exploratory wells the Gulf; and

*cancelling lease sales in the Gulf and off the coast of Virginia coast.

The president acknowledged one mistake — not leaning heavily enough on BP in the early days of the accident to see the footage of the spill, which would have allowed a better assessment of its enormity.

“Their interest may be to minimize the damage and, to the extent that they have better information than anybody else, to not be fully forthcoming,” he said of BP officials. “The administration pushed them to release it, but they should have pushed them sooner.”

The president also accepted responsibility for change not coming fast enough to the Minerals Management Service, the federal regulator in charge of offshore drilling, where he said the industry was too often allowed to regulate itself. The director of MMS was forced to resign this morning, but the president said he didn't know the precise details of her ousting.

- Jake Tapper

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