Appearing for a press conference and taking questions about the BP oil spill for the first time since May, President Obama bore the good news this morning from a podium outside the White House: oil has stopped flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. This development, which came into full focus on Thursday, is cause for jubilation to anyone who cares about the Gulf, but Obama made the announcement in his patented calm, not-jumping-to-conclusions manner.
Obama wrapped up his brief introductory remarks:
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.
A lot has happened since Obama last appeared to address the spill at a news conference, where he beat back at murmurs about the White House's alleged failings in confronting the spill sooner and said he was "fully engaged." Since then, he traveled to Louisiana, met with people there, delivered a weekly radio address from Grand Isle, LA, received briefings from Thad Allen and Steven Chu, and hosted the families of the BP rig workers who died in the explosion for a dinner in the State Room of the White House.
His approval ratings, meanwhile, have gradually declined. Polls vary significantly, but on average Pollster.com shows
him at 46.1% approval, 48.3% disapproval. It's fair to say that the oil spill probably contributed to that slide: CBS showed
just 37% of poll respondents approving of how Obama has handled the spill, in a survey released this week. Obama polls worse on the oil spill than on any other major issue confronting the nation, CBS finds: even the economy, his next-worst issue in terms of popularity, supplies him with a 40% approval rating.
So while the president was, as we could expect him to be, less than effusive when he announced the good news this morning, BP's successful containment is a major event that will likely help his presidency: his biggest shortcoming, in terms of public opinion, has just been capped.