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Gulf oil spill: Obama to head to region on Sunday

May 1, 2010 | 11:37 am

President Obama will head to the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday to catch up firsthand with efforts to fight the massive oil slick that has begun licking the Louisiana shore.

The decision to go to the scene is hardly a surprise, though the White House had indicated just 24 hours earlier that there were no immediate plans for the president to visit the scene.

Why the quick change? Here’s where it gets sticky.

Obama was forceful in criticizing the Bush administration for its slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which was a political disaster for the Bush administration. Local officials along the gulf have already been complaining about the federal response this time.

The presidential visit is just the latest move by the administration to escalate its presence.

Obama personally has spoken about the oil leak three times in as many days. Top Cabinet officials visited the region on Friday after top-level briefings on Thursday in Washington. Officials in Louisiana have often noted that the response by the federal government and BP began as soon as the fire began on a deep-water rig on April 20 and has been “forward leaning.”

Lastly, there is the public relations problem.

Sunday’s morning talk shows will most likely have segments about the Obamas’ scheduled appearance at  the White House Correspondents dinner in Washington. The image of a president at a glamorous black-tie affair on a day when more black oil is washing ashore in Louisiana is a bit too ancien regime for a populist president who has berated Washington's cynical politics as usual.

--Michael Muskal

Twitter.com/LATimesmuskal  
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