/ 27 May 2010

Oil leak stains Obama

The oil spill off the south coast of the United States now reaches practically all the way to the White House — and President Barack Obama is being soiled by it.

‘Plug the damn hole,” the Washington Post reports he told his aides in frustration.

Obama is leading two wars and pushing reforms ranging from hospital care to high finance.

But “that hole” is becoming his biggest immediate problem, an ongoing environmental disaster that he has been unable to stop.

He was scheduled to make his second visit to the region on Friday, at least in part to demonstrate his involvement.

So far, the demonstrations haven’t compared to live underwater video that Americans are watching on TV and the internet, showing oil spewing out of the damaged well on the ocean floor around the clock.

“It’s just beginning. It’s going to get worse and worse,” said historian David Brinkley. “Those visuals are infuriating the American people.”

Their anger has had time to grow. It’s been more than a month since an explosion on April 20 ripped apart an oil rig that was drilling for BP, killing 11 workers and setting off the spill. BP has led efforts to plug it, both because of its legal obligations and its access to industry equipment and expertise that the US government doesn’t have.

But Americans are frustrated that the Obama administration isn’t doing more.

A CNN opinion poll conducted May 21 to 23 found that 51% disapprove of how the president has responded to the spill.

Even some of his prominent Democratic supporters can see the political damage.

“The perception is that we’re fumbling around,” said Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, one of the southern states that fears for its coastline.

Obama has established a special commission to investigate the leak and ordered better safety measures and inspections to prevent future mishaps.

But those are long-term plans that won’t remedy the short-term disaster.

From the oyster houses of New Orleans to the beaches of Miami, Americans are waiting to see how much oil will escape before it’s finally stopped.

And what the president will do to stop it.