From: Steve Holland, Reuters
Published May 27, 2010 06:14 AM

Oil spill a nightmare for Obama

Up from the briny deep of the Gulf of Mexico came a nightmare for President Barack Obama.

Unlike Hurricane Katrina and its immediate, frightful images of people in crisis, the gushing BP oil well has been a slow-moving behemoth that is now taking a political toll on the U.S. president.

Obama was already immersed in a long list of problems -- pushing a financial regulation overhaul, prodding Europe to stem a financial crisis, pressuring Iran and North Korea.


And don't forget the 9.9 percent U.S. jobless rate, two wars and Obama's hopes for immigration and energy legislation before Washington stops for November 2 congressional elections.

Now the greatest environmental calamity since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has fallen into his lap. He declared it "heartbreaking."

"We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired and the cleanup is complete," Obama said on Wednesday. He makes his second visit to the Gulf on Friday.

The word at the White House is that Obama is frustrated at the delays BP Plc has encountered in stopping the leak. "Plug the damn hole," he has told senior government officials.

And he is feeling heat from some of his own allies to get something done.

James Carville, the Louisiana native and Democratic consultant who helped Bill Clinton get elected in 1992, is known as the "Ragin' Cajun" and here is why:

"Man, you (Obama) got to get down here and take control of this! Put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving! We're about to die down here!" he told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, fearful for his state's coastline, was less bellicose, but just as worried.

He told CNN if a BP "top kill" procedure to stem the leak does not work, then Obama has to order the federal government to take over the operations.

"I think the president doesn't have any choice and he better go in, completely take over, perhaps with the military in charge," Nelson said.

"You've got to have BP's cooperation because they've got the technical instruments, but we've got to have somebody take charge. I think the U.S. military is best suited to do that," he said.

A CBS News poll found that 35 percent of Americans surveyed approved of the Obama administration's handling of the oil spill, 45 percent disapproved and 20 percent were undecided.

Photo shows President Barack Obama walking on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington from Fremont, California May 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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