White House Declares War on Oil Spill, Commander in Chief to the Gulf

President Obama to Visit Three Gulf Coast States, Address the Nation

ByDavid Kerley
June 13, 2010, 3:34 PM

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2010— -- Following weeks of criticism, and as many weeks of playing defense, the Obama administration is launching an all-out assault on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A long trip to the gulf, a presidential primetime address to the nation, new proposals for claims and a meeting with the top BP officials responsible for the cleanup are all set for the coming days.

It's clear the White House hopes to capture the offensive and it has fewer and fewer nice things to say about BP.

In fact, President Obama's advisers spent today distancing themselves from BP in relatively strong language.

"I don't consider them a partner. I don't consider them -- they're not social friends -- they are not -- I'm not looking to make judgments about their soul. I just want to make sure that they do what they're required to do," White House adviser David Axelrod said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

BP is expected to respond tonight to a demand letter from the Coast Guard that has dismayed the British oil company. The government wants to a new plan to capture even more of the oil that is gushing out of the well head.

"We were concerned, because if you look at the new flow rate numbers and the amount of oil that is going to be potentially out there at risk, we wanted them to give us a faster plan with greater redundancy and greater reliability as we move forward. And we hope to get an answer on that later on today. In fact, we will get an answer," Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said today on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Obama plans to visit Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida on Monday and Tuesday. These are states he hasn't visited in his previous three trips to deal with the Gulf leak.

Obama Ready to Blitz BP on Oil Spill Response

When he returns Tuesday evening, he is scheduled to address the nation from the Oval Office for what is expected to be a 15-minute speech.

On Wednesday, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg will be at the White House. It is expected he will be accompanied by BP CEO Tony Hayward, who has become the face of the company and this leak.

The president starts his trip to the gulf Monday with a new proposal to set up an escrow account, funded by BP, and administered by a third party to pay out claims to gulf workers who have seen their businesses and jobs affected.

The claims process has been one area the administration has been harping on BP about for at least two weeks. One Florida official would like to see $7 billion set asides for claims.

"We want to make sure that that money is independently administered so that there won't be slow-walk on these claims," Axelrod said. "There are people there who live from week to week and whose livelihoods have been -- have been taken away from them. We want to make sure that they can get through this."

Gulf residents and their elected representatives have been begging for more help from the federal government. The White House response was criticized again today by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.

"We're trying to manage this through a committee form. And it's a committee where any one member has absolute veto power. I don't think you can do that," the Republican said on CBS. "I think we're going to have to set priorities."

But Axelrod defended the administration response, "this is an ongoing crisis, much like an epidemic, and it's -- and there are millions of gallons of oil that have poured into the Gulf and continue to that are threatening the coastlines."

Gulf coast officials, who have been calling for a more vigorous battle against the oil on the surface, are praising a decision by the Coast Guard to expand the battle.

Obama Ready to Blitz BP on Oil Spill Response

"We need to fight this war between the shore and the offshore well, where the oil's starting, maybe, 15 miles off the coast," Allen said. "Rather than trying to capture all around the well head, we've got to get our skimmers further offshore and protect it so we minimize the amount of oil that comes ashore."

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