Make us your home page
Instagram

President's speech outlines long-range restoration, BP aid fund for gulf disaster

WASHINGTON — Using his first Oval Office speech to underscore the severity of the gulf disaster, President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday night to hold BP accountable for its "recklessness" and urged Congress to pass a broad energy plan to break the nation's dependence on oil.

"Make no mistake," Obama said. "We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."

The 18-minute address came as Americans have grown increasingly dissatisfied with Obama's handling of the crisis. It was delivered hours after he surveyed the damage in Pensacola, his fourth trip to the gulf region and first to Florida since the spill.

"You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy," Obama said Tuesday night.

He called on BP to set aside "whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of this company's recklessness."

Obama, who will formally call for the escrow account during a meeting with BP executives today, wants the fund to be overseen by a third party.

Obama also called for a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan designed by federal and state officials, scientists and conservationists, along with the fishermen, hoteliers and other people who ply their trade in the bountiful but delicate region. Overseeing the effort will be Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy and former governor of Mississippi.

He reaffirmed a pledge to tighten regulation of the oil industry and called for ways to make drilling safer — the underlying charge he gave a commission co-chaired by former Florida Gov. Bob Graham.

•••

Through it all, Obama needed to convey the toughness the public clearly demands with the steady persona he is known for, and he seemed to meet that balance. Trying to bring the nation together, he invoked past challenges and American resolve.

He threw in some optimism, saying additional containment measures should capture up to 90 percent of the oil pouring out of the sea floor while BP finishes a relief well. Obama said 30,000 people are working across four states and 17,000 National Guard members are at the disposal of governors. He pointed to "millions of gallons" of oil collected through skimmers and booms.

But past optimism has not always materialized and oil continues to spill. The government now believes 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day are flowing from the well, far more than the original 5,000 barrel estimate.

Logistical and political challenges remain. Some from the affected region complain the recovery effort is still poorly coordinated and ill-equipped.

Even before he spoke, Republicans accused Obama of "exploiting" the crisis by calling for energy legislation they said would have a "job killing" tax.

"Manipulating this tragic national crisis for selfish political gain not only demonstrates President Obama's inability to aptly lead our nation out of a disaster, but also reveals the appallingly arrogant political calculus of this White House," Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said afterward.

Obama avoided a direct mention of the greenhouse issue other than referencing a package passed by the House. Yet he devoted much of his speech to energy policy. He said he was open to ideas from either party, "as long as they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels."

"But the one approach I will not accept is inaction," he said. "The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet."

Despite a still struggling economy, a two-front war and other sweeping concerns, Tuesday was Obama's first address from the Oval Office. Presidents typically reserve the solemn setting to speak to Americans about grave concerns. George W. Bush addressed the nation on Sept. 11, 2001. Bill Clinton discussed the peace agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Nov. 27, 1995.

Obama was trying to show how critical he views the calamity, now in its 57th day. His administration has been involved from the start, but not as forcefully or decisively as many have wanted.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found just 37 percent of Floridians approve of his handling of the oil spill, and 54 percent disapprove.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday showed 71 percent think Obama has not been "tough enough" on BP.

"The bottom line is, it's been many weeks where it appeared to the average person that not much has happened except more and more oil coming out of the ground. He's got to cross that hurdle," said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida.

Reaction was characteristically partisan.

"The American people don't want more speeches or photo ops," said U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers. "They want someone who can lead and achieve results."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., applauded the call for an independent compensation fund and a move away from oil, saying, "It's time to take this tragedy and turn it into an opportunity."

President's speech outlines long-range restoration, BP aid fund for gulf disaster 06/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 11:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation (w/video)

    Business

    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  2. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  3. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion

    National

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]
  4. Ford, Chinese partner look at possible electric car venture

    Autos

    BEIJING — Ford Motor Co. and a Chinese automaker said Tuesday they are looking into setting up a joint venture to develop and manufacture electric cars in China.

    In this April 23, 2016 photo, attendees take smartphone photos at a promotional event for Ford Motor Company ahead of the Auto China car show in Beijing. Ford Motor Co. announced an agreement Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 with a Chinese partner to look into forming a joint venture to develop and manufacture electric cars in China. [AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein]
  5. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]