June 14, 2010 -- President Obama struck a cautiously optimistic tone today on the future of the Gulf Coast after surveying oil cleanup efforts in Theodore, Alabama, but warned the business owners and residents will have to be patient.
"It's going to take time for things to return to normal. 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.
"But I promise you this, that things are going to return to normal. This region that's known a lot of hardship will bounce back, just like it's bounced back before."
Obama promised the full resources of the federal government to "make sure that communities get back on their feet" and said he was confident that the Gulf Coast would wind up "in better shape than it was before."
Earlier today the president met with the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi as well as several local residents to get "an absolutely clear understanding" of the economic damage from the oil spill that he will ask BP to help alleviate during a meeting at the White House later this week.
Obama's trip to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida -- three affected states not included in his three previous visits -- comes one day before he will address the nation on the Gulf of Mexico disaster in a 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, Miss.
Obama assured the business owners that the federal government is "in this for the long haul" but cautioned that how long that will actually be is unknown.
"The full effects of this may not be known immediately," he said of the oil spill that has been leaking for nearly two months. "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.
Obama to Deliver Oval Office Address Tuesday
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told ABC News the Oval Office is the right venue for a situation of such gravity.
"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 in an interview Monday.
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.
The president will discuss plans to contain the oil, reorganize the Minerals and Management Services and to push BP to create an escrow fund for those seeking damages from the company.
In his small office adjacent to the Oval Office, Axelrod said that the account should 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 environmental catastrophe to exemplify the nation's need to pursue a clean energy future.
Obama will discuss BP's substantial bill from the government, tallied in accordance with the Natural Resource Damage Assessments, an official says. The president intends to make sure that money is spent to restore the Gulf to the healthy environmental standards it had pre-Hurricane Katrina.
Axelrod uses the phrase "battle plan" repeatedly, adding the pollution resulting from the oil spill is not a one-time event like a hurricane.
"[It's] more like a war, more like an epidemic and so you need a long-term plan to deal with it. And that's what the president is offering," he said.
"He's going to have a lot of eyes glued to the television set tomorrow night," Democratic strategist and "Good Morning America" consultant James Carville said on "GMA" today. "I think he can hit this political reset button... I think he can eliminate the [political] damage."
"I think he can help himself a great deal. It's a complex problem but he's got to show that he's on top of this thing, that there's a strategy in place and that there's a way to deal with this," Carville added.
BP says they are planning to increase containment capacity, from siphoning 15,000 to 28,000 barrels per day of oil to as much as 50,000 barrels a day by the end of the month.
The company deployed new sea sensors over the weekend to help government scientists figure out how much oil is still seeping out of the well.
Meanwhile, 23 more miles of the Gulf coast were closed for fishing as tar balls washed ashore and threatened sea life.
In an opinion piece published in several Gulf coast newspapers, Obama said an independent commission will investigate how such disasters can be prevented.
"Beyond the current disaster, we also have an obligation to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again," the president wrote. "Where the laws are insufficient to prevent another spill, we'll change them. Where oversight has been inadequate, we'll strengthen it."
Carville said the news from BP that it's capturing more oil is encouraging and that people in Louisiana and across the Gulf coast are anxiously awaiting news on what further help is coming from the government.
"They definitely want to know what's the strategy for cleaning this up, how much oil has been put out there, how long do the experts think this is going to go on, what will be the long-term effects on our fishing industry, they're definitely concerned about this moratorium that's reckoning this economy down here, what has to be done to get this lifted, how soon can we expect that, and the big thing of course is... what is going to happen to our wetlands," Carville said. "If this president seizes this initiative... that's going to be a big part of his legacy, that's going to be an enormous thing."
A White House official said Obama's address is coming before the BP meeting because "he's going to tell the nation what he intends to tell BP that they have to do."
And why now?
"We know more now than we did," the official said, both in terms of how much oil is being released and in terms of "our capacity to contain the flow."
The official underlined that this spill is not an "event" like the Challenger disaster, but rather an "epidemic" that will continue for years, even after the hole is plugged.
Obama on Wednesday will meet BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and is expected to pressure BP to fund an escrow account -- administered by a third party -- to pay out claims to workers whose businesses and jobs have been affected by the spill.
"The president will make clear that he expects, and that if necessary will exercise his full legal authority to ensure, that BP sets aside the funds required to pay individuals and businesses damaged by this massive spill," a White House official said. "And that those funds will be paid out under fair, efficient, and transparent procedures administered by an independent third-party panel established just for this purpose."
The president spoke on Saturday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and assured his British counterpart that there is no anti-British sentiment at play in the administration's tough words for BP.
"The president told the prime minister that our frustration has nothing to do with national identity but has to do with ensuring that a large, wealthy company lives up to its obligations," a senior official said. "He said BP must meet its obligations to those whose lives have been disrupted and we will insist everything be done to cap the well, capture the oil, and pay for the cleanup, the environmental damage done and the tens of thousands of economic claims as a result of this disaster."
ABC News' Ann Compton and Sam Champion contributed to this report.