May 27, 2010: Obama Press Conference on BP Oil Spill & Joe Sestak Job Offer

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama offered Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama was also asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, as well as whether the White House offered Representative Joe Sestak a job in the administration.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Wide Majority See Spill as ‘Disaster’: A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds most Americans rating the president’s response to the oil spill negatively. More than half of Americans, 53 percent, say the president’s response to the spill has been “poor” or “very poor,” the poll finds. Negative ratings rise to 60 percent for the job the federal government has done in responding to the spill, and rise to 73 percent for the efforts by BP, the company whose well exploded.
    Most Americans, moreover, envision deep, long-term consequences. More than 7 in 10 say the impact of the oil spill in the long run will be a disaster, including almost 4 in 10 who say it will be the worst environmental disaster in the United States in at least 100 years. Just 26 percent hold a more positive view, seeing the spill as a problem but not a disaster…. – NYT, 5-27-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Live Blogging Obama’s News Conference: From Jeff Zeleny: So did President Obama accomplish his task of demonstrating to America that he – and his government – are in control of the crisis on the Gulf?
    During a full hour of questioning, he illustrated that he has a grasp of the technical challenges at work in the oil spill. He said the government was calling the shots, the buck stopped with him and the ultimate responsibility rested in the Oval Office.
    But it remains an open question whether the measured tone that has become the soundtrack of Mr. Obama’s presidency – a detached, calm, observational pitch – served to drive the point home that he is sufficiently enraged by the fury in the Gulf Coast…. – NYT The Caucus, 5-27-10
  • Obama Open to Ideas on How to Plug Oil Leak, Defends Administration Response: President Obama said the federal government is open to ideas from anyone and anywhere on how to plug the oil leak on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, but rejected the notion that Washington has been sitting on the “sidelines” and pledged to fix the problem. “We are relying on every resource and every idea,” he said Thursday, at his first full-blown press conference since July. “We will take ideas from anywhere, but we are going to stop it.” Obama said that the federal government is “in charge” of the efforts to contain the damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He called the leak his administration’s “highest priority” and said anyone claiming otherwise doesn’t know the facts…. – Fox News, 5-27-10
  • Fixing oil disaster my responsibility, Obama says: On the defensive more than five weeks into the nation’s worst-ever oil spill, President Barack Obama insisted Thursday that his administration, not oil giant BP, was calling the shots in the still-unsuccessful response. “I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down,” Obama declared at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominated the hour-long session… – AP, 5-27-10
  • ‘Top kill’ stops gulf oil leak for now, official says: Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well…. – LAT, 5-27-10
  • Gulf spill surpasses Valdez; plug try going well: An untested procedure to plug the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to be working, officials said Thursday, but new estimates showed the spill has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history. A team of scientists trying to determine how much oil has been flowing since the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later found the rate was more than twice and possibly up to five times as high as previously thought…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama: “Nothing Improper” in Alleged Sestak Job Offer: President Obama said at his press conference today that he “can assure the public that nothing improper took place” in conversations between the White House and Rep. Joe Sestak, who suggested earlier this year he was offered a White House job in exchange for dropping his primary challenge against Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. CBS News, 5-27-10
  • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

We can always do better, the president said.Doug Mills/The New York Times “If the question is are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not, we can always do better,” the president says.
  • Defending Spill Response, Obama Expresses Frustration: President Obama declared on Thursday that he is “angry and frustrated” over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and ordered a further moratorium on new permits to drill new deepwater wells as he tried to address deepening public frustration.
    “Every day I see this leak continue, I am angry and frustrated as well,” the president told reporters in the East Room. He acknowledged that not every decision has been perfect, and “we can always do better.” But he added: “Those who think we were either slow in our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”
    “But make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction,” he said. “Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.”
    Mr. Obama said that the government has made “the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history” to address the oil leak, deploying 20,000 people, 1,300 vessels and 3 million feet of boom in the region to contain and clean up the spill.
    “We are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology to work to stop it,” the president said. “We will take ideas from anywhere but we are going to stop it. I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans.”
    “Absolutely, I take responsibility for that,” he said. “There wasn’t a sufficient urgency.” Although the regulators were in some instances constrained by law from being more thoroughgoing, he added, “We should have busted through those constraints.” – NYT, 5-27-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)
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