Oval Office Underscores Stakes of Obama’s Speech

Posted June 15, 2010 at 9:51am

President Barack Obama’s prime-time speech Tuesday night from the Oval Office on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf will be his first such address — underscoring just how important the move is to winning support from the public on his handling of the crisis.

Obama personally decided he wanted to give his address from the Oval Office based on the nature of the ongoing disaster, White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Monday. Experts are now estimating that as many as 30,000 barrels of oil per day have been spewing into the Gulf waters since April 20, when a BP oil rig exploded and triggered the massive leak.

“What we’re seeing in the Gulf is a catastrophe the likes of which our country has never seen before, so the response has been enormous, the assets and the full power of the federal government has been brought to bear here, and so talking directly with the American people about what we’re doing to address this crisis and what we’re going to be doing moving forward is very important to the president right now,” Burton said.

Obama’s speech comes on the heels of a two-day visit to the Gulf region, where he has been touring the coastlines of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi to assess the situation. His latest visit marks his fourth time to the region since the disaster began. Obama will follow up on that tour and Tuesday’s speech by meeting with BP executives on Wednesday.

The president has struggled with his public image amid the cleanup effort: Obama has been criticized for not appearing emotional enough about how devastating the disaster has been and for his administration’s response to the spill. Congress has also wrestled with how to proceed, with lawmakers floating an array of bills aimed at raising the liability cap on BP and banning offshore drilling. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week directed her committee chairmen to produce legislation by July 4.