President Obama spoke to the media today to give an update on the how the new cap is functioning to contain BP’s oil spill in the Gulf. Obama stressed that the new cap is good news, “The new cap is good news. Either we will be able to stop the flow, or we will be able to use it to capture almost all of the oil until the relief well is done.”
Obama said, “I wanted to give everyone a quick update on the situation in the Gulf. As we all know, a new cap was fitted over the BP oil well earlier this week. This larger more sophisticated cap was designed to give us greater control over the oil flow as we complete the relief wells that are necessary to stop the leak…. Now, even if a shut-in is not possible, this new cap and the additional equipment being placed in the Gulf will be able to contain up 80,000 barrels a day, which should allow us to capture nearly all the oil until the well is killed. It’s important to remember that prior to installation of this new cap, we were collecting on average about 25,000 barrels a day.”
Later the President called the cap good news, “So to summarize, the new cap is good news. Either we will be able to stop the flow, or we will be able to use it to capture almost all of the oil until the relief well is done. But we’re not going to know for certain which approach makes sense until additional data is in. And all the American people should rest assured that all of these decisions will be based on the science and what’s best for the people of the Gulf.”
When asked if the new cap means that we have turned the corner in the Gulf, Obama was cautious, “Well, I think it’s important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves here. One of the problems with having this camera down there is, is that when the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we’re done — and we’re not. The new cap is containing the oil right now, but scientists are doing a number of tests. What they want to make sure of is, is that by putting this cap on the oil isn’t seeping out elsewhere in ways that could be even more catastrophic. And that involves measuring pressures while this cap is on. The data is not all still in and it has to be interpreted by the scientists.”
Politically it was important for President Obama to get in front of the cameras and deliver some good news to the American people about the Gulf oil spill. The newest Time magazine poll revealed that 54% of Americans disapproved of his handling of the Gulf oil spill. (Whether or not those feelings were justified, the White House still must react to them). The Republican talking point that the oil spill is, “Obama’s Katrina” does not seem to have struck a chord with the American people, but Americans are outraged by the pictures coming out of the Gulf Coast region, and they want their president to do something.
Early on the administration avoided letting the President get too close to this story, but it appears that they realized that they could not distance Obama from this disaster. After eight years of watching George W. Bush sit on his hands, many people want a president who looks like he is doing something besides cutting brush on his ranch in Crawford. While the Obama administration was doing a great deal, they didn’t appear to be doing enough, and in politics appearance can mean more than action. This is why it is an important step in the right political direction to have Obama delivering the Gulf oil spill update. The president needs to change the perception of his handling of the oil spill, and delivering good news about containing BP’s mess is a good way to do it.