West Wing Briefing

Obama to speak on gulf spill in first news conference since summer '09

BP started pumping heavy mud into the leaking Gulf of Mexico well Wednesday and said everything was going as planned in the company's boldest attempt yet to plug the gusher that has spewed millions of gallons of oil over the last five weeks.
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 12:17 PM

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.

Since a BP offshore rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and starting the flow of oil into the sea, Obama has spoken about the matter with increasing urgency, and sometimes anger.

As we await the televised news conference and reporters' questions, here's a review of what the president has said about the spill so far:

April 29

Obama's first public comments about the explosion came during a Rose Garden ceremony for science teachers. He vowed to "use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the Department of Defense, to address the incident."

But he also joked that "I am sure there may be a few science teachers here who have been following this issue closely with their classes, and if you guys have any suggestions, please let us know."

May 1

Two days later, Obama took a break from telling jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner to inject a somber tone about the oil spill.

"You know, even as we enjoy each other's company tonight, we're also mindful of the incredible struggles of our fellow Americans in the Gulf Coast -- both those leading the efforts to stem this crisis and those along the coast whose livelihoods are in jeopardy as a result of the spill," he said.

(It turned out that was also the night of the attempted Times Square bombing, but news reports of that near-disaster didn't emerge until after Obama had finished speaking.)

May 2

Hours after the dinner, Obama was standing in front of a Coast Guard cutter on the Louisiana coast. Standing in the rain after meeting with officials and viewing the shoreline, Obama noted that the American public is now aware that "we are dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."

Grim-faced, Obama promised that "from day one we have prepared and planned for the worst, even as we hoped for the best. . . . I'm not going to rest -- and none of the gentlemen and women who are here are going to rest -- or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source."

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