Obama under fire for oil spill response 

Despite some progress in capping BP's still leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen warned the cleanup could push into the fall.

"There will be oil out there for months to come," Allen said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "The spill is holding everybody hostage."

BP officials claim a containment cap installed on the underwater well is trapping more than half of the oil that was previously leaking into the ocean. They hope to increase the rate of capture and eventually close the well completely.

Even so, said Allen, "there will be oil out there for months to come."

In the last few days, images of animals and birds coated with oil have added a new, more poignant dimension to the disaster. Allen said the slick from the leak is extending in a 200-mile radius from the well.

BP in recent days has drawn widespread scorn for a $50 million public relations campaign aimed at moderating public outrage over the spill.

"BP's response has been lousy," Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told ABC News' "This Week."

Cornyn said it's unclear who is in charge of the disaster. While President Obama has said he takes responsibility, the Coast Guard and BP appear to be jostling out in the Gulf for management of the crisis.

"I think really, we need the president to step up and assert himself and to say, let's cut through the red tape, let's cut through the chain of command, and let's get the assets where they need to be in order to protect the beaches and the people of that important region," Cornyn said.

Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, appearing on the same ABC News show, said it was important "not to be throwing the blame around."

Calling the disaster a potential "economic transformational moment," Kerry said the spill highlights the need for comprehensive energy legislation.

Even so, the public seems to feel there is plenty of blame to go around. Sixty-three percent in a recent CBS News poll said the Obama administration should be doing more, while 70 percent said BP should be doing more.

The poll also found the spill has diminished public enthusiasm for offshore drilling. Fifty-one percent say the costs and risks are too great -- 10 percentage points higher than a month ago and 23 percentage points higher than 2008, when "drill, baby, drill" was a popular political rallying cry.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, told "Fox News Sunday" that news media coverage of the spill is hurting tourism along the coast.

"We have had virtually no oil," Barbour said. "If you were on the Mississippi Gulf coast anytime in the last 48 days, you didn't see any oil at all. We have had a few tar balls but we have had tar balls every year, as a natural product of the Gulf of Mexico."

He added, "The average viewer of this show thinks that the whole coast from Florida to Texas is ankle-deep in oil."

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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