COLUMBIA — For more than seven weeks, oil has seeped steadily into the Gulf of Mexico. For almost as long, President Barack Obama's response to the environmental disaster has been a subject of great debate.
Critics have characterized Obama's response to the crisis — which began with an offshore explosion on April 20 — as slow and "detached," according to a CNN report. His first three visits to the region were brief — and only to Louisiana; he didn't speak to Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, for the first 50 days of the disaster.
This past weekend, Obama pledged a whirlwind week to stepped-up national response to the crisis. His pledge includes visits to three of the four affected Gulf states — Alabama, Florida and Mississippi — on Monday and Tuesday.
The president will then discuss the oil spill in a nationally televised address from the Oval Office at 7 p.m. Tuesday. This will be Obama's first speech from the Oval Office.
All this comes before the president's first face-to-face meeting with top BP executives on Wednesday. Obama is expected to make strong suggestions that the company establish a corporate-funded escrow account to pay for damage claims filed by individuals and businesses.
The legality of this ultimatum — which could affect the company's ability to pay its shareholders —has been researched extensively by White House lawyers and justified on the basis of the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, according to a New York Times' article.
Since the explosion, tens of millions of gallons of oil have leaked from a broken well about one mile below the water's surface. The offshore spill — the largest in U.S. history — has already devastated the region's economy and environment.
Is Obama's response to the crisis in the Gulf too little, too late?