'World News' Political Insights: President Obama Seeks Control of Sticky Storyline

White House wakes up late to political fallout of oil spill in Gulf region.

ByABC News
June 13, 2010, 4:54 PM

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2010— -- It's not too late to find his way to the White House rooftop after all.

President Obama is now reacting to the BP oil mess in precisely the way he said he didn't need to. After weeks of insisting that bringing rhetorical heat on BP executives wouldn't get anything done, that's just what he's starting to do.

Now, a president who's known for his cool is looking for butts to kick. He's meeting with the same executives whose direct input he said he didn't think he needed, as his top aides telegraph growing frustration with their erstwhile partners at BP.

Nearly two months into the environmental calamity in the region, he's making his fourth visit to the Gulf region -- this time, spending an overnight and the better part of two days.

He's capping it all by using one of the loudest megaphones a president possesses: a prime-time address Tuesday night, from the Oval Office.

Why the shift? The White House is beginning to realize that the political fallout of the oil spill is very real -- and holding office for a year and a half makes it harder to blame the previous administration for evident shortcomings.

Just as the president and his top aides didn't fully grasp the scale of environmental fallout, they didn't comprehend the degree to which the response to the incident has evolved into a test of presidential leadership.

The president himself has voiced growing frustration over what he sees as a media-constructed storyline. Yet his actions now, in turning up the rhetorical heat and the personal involvement, play into that narrative.

Little if anything the president says or does this week will do much -- to quote the president on what he's indicated he thinks the American people really want -- to "plug the damn leak." But the time for making friends is over.

"I don't consider them a partner," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on "Meet the Press" today, when asked about the White House relationship with BP executives. "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."