Briefly mentioning his upcoming Oval Office address to the nation tonight, the president promised the people of the Gulf Coast today that he is with them as they clean up from the damage of the oil spill.
“I am with you,” Obama promised from a hanger in Pensacola's Naval Air Station, “my administration is with you for the long haul to make sure BP pays for the damage that it has done and to make sure that you are getting the help you need, to protect this beautiful coast and to rehabilitate the damaged areas, to revitalize this region, and to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. That is a commitment I am making to the people of Florida and people all across this Gulf.”
Mr. Obama referred to the oil spill – as he has in recent days – as an “assault on our shores,” which he promised to fight back with “everything that we’ve got.” He said that this is not just an environmental disaster but also an “economic disaster” for the people in the affected communities.
“Here in Pensacola and the panhandle, tourism is everything. And when the tourists stay home, it ripples out and hits folks across these communities: the charter boats, the hotels, the restaurants, the roadside stores, the shops, the suppliers, the dive shops. And if your inland waters are contaminated, if the bays and bayous are contaminated, it could be devastating, changing the way of life down here for years to come”
The president again plugged the local beaches of Pensacola, and said that people need to know that they are open for business, with sand still white and oceans still blue.
“But that doesn't mean that people aren't angry,” he admitted, “That doesn't mean that people aren't scared. That doesn't mean that people have concerns about the future. We all have those concerns. And people have every right to be angry. Those plumes of oil are off the coast. The fishing waters are closed. Tar balls have been coming ashore. And everybody's bracing for more. “
The Naval Air Station has been one of the staging areas for the response efforts in the area, and the president thanked the sailors and the Marines offering their help – along with ships, skimmers, helicopters and boom – to the relief efforts.
-Sunlen Miller and Karen Travers