Obama sees light ahead for oil-damaged Gulf Coast
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
THEODORE, Ala. – In a newly optimistic tone, President Barack Obama promised Monday that “things are going to return to normal” along the stricken Gulf Coast and the region’s fouled waters will be in better shape than before the catastrophic BP oil spill.
He declared Gulf seafood safe to eat and said his administration was redoubling inspections and monitoring to make sure it stays that way. And his White House said Monday it had wrested apparent agreement from BP PLC to set up an independent, multibillion-dollar compensation fund for people and businesses suffering from the spill’s effects.
Obama said the goal was to pay legitimate claims “justly, fairly, promptly.”
With Obama hoping to convince a frightened Gulf Coast and a skeptical nation that he is in command, he is marshaling the tools at a president’s disposal: a two-day visit via Air Force One, helicopter and boat in the stricken region, a prime-time speech Tuesday night from the symbolically important stage of the Oval Office and a face-to-face White House confrontation Wednesday with the executives of the oil company that leased the rig that exploded April 20 and led to the leak of millions of gallons of coast-devastating crude.
From an enormous waterside staging facility here, one of 17 across Gulf Coast where cleanup crews ready themselves and equipment to attack the spill, Obama mixed warnings that the recovery could take a while with unqualified optimism about the ultimate result.
“I can’t promise folks here in Theodore or across the Gulf Coast that the oil will be cleaned up overnight. It will not be,” he said, after encouraging hard-hatted workers as they hosed off and repaired oil-blocking boom. “It’s going to be painful for a lot of folks.”
But, he said, “things are going to return to normal. … I am confident that we’re going to be able to leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.”
That pledge was reminiscent of George W. Bush’s promise to rebuild the region “even better and stronger” than before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Bush could not make good on that promise, and Obama did not spell out how he would fulfill his.