Robert Gibbs Defends White House On Oil Spill Response
With criticism mounting over a lax presidential response to the oil spill in the gulf, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took to the Sunday show circuit to beat back talk that the episode had become the administration's Katrina.
"I think if you look back at what happened in Katrina, the government wasn't there to respond to what was happening," Gibbs told CBS's "Face the Nation." "That quite frankly was the problem. Even tracking the hurricane for days and knowing fairly precisely where it was going to hit, I think the difference in this case is we were there immediately. We have been there ever since. [Admiral] Thad Allen is directing our response as the national incident commander. There are people on the ground. There are thousands of people working even as we speak...to figure out a way to plug this hole and to deal with the spread of this oil."
In recent days, a host of voices (Republican and Democratic alike) began speaking out more forcefully with concern that the administration had taken a seemingly "lackadaisical" approach towards containing and cleaning up the Gulf spill.
"I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here," said Democratic strategist and New Orleans resident James Carville. "They're naive!"
"The oil is gushing and we're being lied to by how much oil is gushing...and the administration has now named a commission," another Louisianan, Cokie Roberts, said on ABC's "This Week." "Now this is what you do when you really don't have anything else to do: you name a commission," she said. "That's not going to stop the oil."
"One of the problems I have with the [Obama] administration is that they're not tough enough," added Donna Brazile, yet another Louisianan on ABC's "This Week." "They are waiting for BP to say, 'oh we have a new plan to stop the oil leak.' They need to stop it, contain it, clean it up and try and help us conserve our coastal wetlands," Brazile said.
The tensions peaked during the daily press briefing at the White House on Friday when Gibbs was repeatedly questioned as to what, exactly, the administration was doing to help with the catastrophic spill. The line of inquiry grew so contentious that Gibbs ended up calling reporters after the briefing finished to ask them about their tone.
"My frustration was one of questioners said in the premise of his question was why is the government standing around doing nothing and hoping for the best?" Gibbs explained on CBS. "There's a lot of criticisms that one can have certainly for BP and even for the government in how we got to this. But I don't think anybody could credibly say, even as frustrated as they are and as frustrated as we are, that the government has stood around, done nothing and hoped for the best. We were activated the moment that this oil rig exploded. This has been on the president's agenda ever since that happened and we have mobilized every aspect that we possibly can in our government. There have been calls to every sector of our government to ask for help. That's what we've done. My frustration was with the notion and the premise that we had sat by and done nothing which I think is certainly not true."