West Wing Briefing

Times Square bomb, oil spill complicate White House agenda

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 3, 2010; 6:27 AM

Some weeks at the White House are carefully mapped out, the result of a desire among senior aides to use their most precious resource -- a president's time -- to advance their agenda.

And then there are weeks like the one that starts today.

President Obama's top advisers thought they had a plan for the week -- a focus on jobs, and the White House's efforts to boost the economic recovery. That agenda is jumbled now. The specter of a worsening environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, combined with a possible terrorist act in New York's Times Square, has rewritten the presidential playbook on Sunday and for the next several days.

The president's trip to the Gulf Sunday provided an opportunity for the White House to show that the administration is fully engaged in the crisis. A long e-mail titled "The ongoing administration-wide response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill" arrived in reporters' inboxes Sunday night.

One senior White House adviser called the president's trip to the region "pitch perfect." But the news from the site of the spill is grim, and the likelihood is that the crisis will continue to command presidential attention, making it more difficult to focus on job creation.

Then there is the bomb discovered in New York -- the "skunk at the garden party," as the Obama adviser called it in an e-mail Sunday night. Obama will receive his daily briefing Monday morning, and the investigation into who built the device and delivered it to a crowded part of New York City will be at the top of the list.

As of late Sunday, aides said a trip to New Jersey to talk about the economy on Wednesday would be cancelled. A senior White House official said the trip was scrubbed after the administration had to send advance teams to New Orleans to set up Sunday's last-minute trip to the Gulf.

So far, the president still plans to host the Business Council for dinner at the White House Monday night, and to address the group at their annual meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

According to the White House, the president will "discuss his efforts to spur job creation and rebuild our economy for years to come. He will also address the important role the business community plays in the fight to get the American people back to work."

And Thursday's regularly-scheduled meeting with the president's national security team on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is still on the schedule.

But, just as the president took time twice last week to talk about the oil spill during events scheduled on other topics, look for him to find ways this week to address the bomb in New York and the continued environmental threat in the Gulf.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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