President Obama traveled to Louisiana today to address the nation on BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, appearing with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, and other government officials on the Gulf shore, sea birds chirping behind him.
He did so as the spill continues unabated, and the public continues to ask why. As reporters question the White House on its response to the spill--the full severity of which wasn't known until well after the Deepwater Horizon well exploded--the spill has become a political question.
Obama's visit was not a political one, but one salient political point did emerge: Obama expects public frustration to continue.
"We expect that frustration and anger to continue until we actually solve this problem," Obama said.
The scene was typical of presidential visits to disaster areas, including President Bush's trip to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: the president stood at a podium in the open air, his sleeves rolled up, no suit jacket or tie, state and local politicians and career public officials standing behind him.
It was clear that Obama wanted to assure the public that the government is functioning efficiently and that he himself is accountable. "I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I'm the president, and the buck stops with me," he said, giving "the people of this community and the entire Gulf" his word that the government will do all it can.
To the local government officials and responders to the spill, Obama said, "If something is not going right down here, then they need to talk to [Coast Guad Adm.] Thad Allen, and if they're not getting satisfaction from Thad Allen, then they can talk to me."
It was the language of a president who knows that nothing feeds frustration like bureaucratic confusion and red tape.