Video: Obama: ‘All of America’ committed to Gulf recovery

NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 8/29/2010 6:54:42 PM ET 2010-08-29T22:54:42

President Barack Obama rejected criticism of his response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Sunday, saying in an interview airing on “NBC Nightly News” that his administration jumped on the crisis immediately and was determined to hold BP accountable.

Obama was interviewed Sunday afternoon by “Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams while on a trip to New Orleans to help commemorate Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall five years ago.

Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, was widely criticized for his administration’s response to Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people and laid waste to this city and much of the surrounding Gulf Coast.

As BP struggled for weeks to cap the well that began gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico in April, Obama came under similar pressure from environmental activists who said the federal government should have stepped in earlier and taken greater control — leading, as Williams noted, to critics’ characterization of the oil spill as “Obama’s Katrina.”

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“That is just not accurate,” Obama said, pointing to the $20 billion fund BP set up under federal  supervision to compensate victims of the oil spill.

Full transcript of the ‘NBC Nightly News’ interview

Obama said failures in the aftermath of Katrina made it clear that “the real protection for New Orleans and the coast are the wetlands,” lessons that he said provided important guidance in allowing his administration to respond quickly in the days after the oil spill.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said. “But the fact is because of the sturdiness and swiftness of the response, there’s a lot less oil hitting these shores and these beaches than anybody would have anticipated given the volume that was coming out of the BP oil well.”

If anything, Obama said, “this is an opportunity for us to take a look comprehensively all along the coast and say, ‘How do we do things better? How do we do things smarter than we've done before?’”

Of criticism of the federal response, he concluded, “We’ve got to put all that stuff aside and come in and make sure we get the job done.”

Obama says he didn’t watch Beck rally
Obama briefly touched on several issues in a wide-ranging 20-minute interview, which took place under umbrellas in the New Orleans rain. He said he remained confident in his administration’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan — the topic of his scheduled nationally televised address Tuesday night — and he urged Americans to have patience with the economic recovery.

Obama acknowledged that many Americans remained out of work while others were being badly pinched. But he said the recovery was a long-term effort that would pay dividends even if it was painful now.

“What we know is that we are going to have to slowly, steadily build confidence — push more investment out there, target areas like clean energy that we know are going to be growth areas in the future,” he said.

The president also chuckled when he was asked about polls that show many Americans still believe he was born outside the United States or was a Muslim. He said he didn’t pay much attention to such perceptions, which he blamed on “a network of misinformation that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly.”

"I can't spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead,” he added. “The facts are the facts.”

He seemed intent on casting himself as above the political fray, saying he had more important work to do than to engage in the back and forth of the political “silly season.”

For example, Obama said he did not watch any of Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally Saturday on the National Mall.

“It’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country. That's been true throughout our history,” he said. But “what I’m focused on is making sure that the decisions we’re making now are going to be be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily  for the next election, but are good for the next generation.”

Obama: New Orleans ‘is coming back’
The interview took place about an hour after Obama sought to reassure Gulf Coast residents that he was still focused on the region’s larger recovery efforts after Katrina, the recession and the oil spill.

“My administration is going to stand with you and fight alongside you until the job is done,” he told a cheering crowd at Xavier University, a historically black, Catholic university that was badly flooded by the storm.

Obama visits New Orleans on Katrina anniversary

But as he did in the NBC News interview, the president offered no new initiatives in the struggling region, promising only that work on a fortified levee system would be finished by next year.

By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com

Photos: Month 4

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  1. The Blue Dolphin, left, and the HOS Centerline, the ships supplying the mud for the static kill operation on the Helix Q4000, are seen delivering mud through hoses at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, on Aug. 3, 2010. In the background is the Development Driller III, which is drilling the primary relief well. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Eddie Forsythe and Don Rorabough dump a box of blue crabs onto a sorting table at B.K. Seafood in Yscloskey, La., on Aug. 3, 2010. The crabs were caught by fisherman Garet Mones. Commercial and recreational fishing has resumed, with some restrictions in areas that were closed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Chuck Cook / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Sea turtle hatchlings that emerged from eggs gathered on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida are released at Playalinda Beach on the Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville, Fla., on Aug. 2, 2010. The sea turtles were born at a Kennedy Space Center incubation site, where thousands of eggs collected from Florida and Alabama beaches along the Gulf of Mexico have been sent. (Craig Rubadoux / Florida Today via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A crab, covered with oil, walks along an oil absorbent boom near roso-cane reeds at the South Pass of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana on Aug. 1, 2010. BP is testing the well to see if it can withstand a "static kill" which would close the well permanently. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A boat motors through a sunset oil sheen off East Grand Terre Island, where the Gulf of Mexico meets Barataria Bay on the La. coast, on the evening of July 31. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Oil approaches a line of barges and boom positioned to protect East Grand Terre Island, partially seen at top right, on July 31. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen near an unprotected island in the Gulf of Mexico near Timbalier Bay, off the coast of Louisiana on Wednesday, July 28. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Greenpeace activists stand outside a BP gas station in London, England, on July 27 after they put up a fence to cut off access. Several dozen BP stations in London were temporarily shut down to protest the Gulf spill. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. James Wilson sells T-shirts to those arriving in Grand Isle, La., for the music festival Island Aid 2010 on July 24. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Activists covered in food coloring made to look like oil protest BP's Gulf oil spill in Mexico City on July 22. The sign at far left reads in Spanish "Petroleum kills animals." (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. People in Lafayette, La., wear "Keep Drilling" tee shirts at the "Rally for Economic Survival" opposing the federal ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, July 21. Supporters at the rally want President Obama to lift the moratorium immediately to protect Louisiana's jobs and economy. (Ann Heisenfelt / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A flock of white ibis lift off from marsh grass on Dry Bread Island in St. Bernard Parish, La., July 21. Crews found about 130 dead birds and 15 live birds affected by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on July 19 in the eastern part of the parish behind the Chandeleur Islands. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the BP Oil Spill Victim Compensation Fund testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on July 21 in Washington, D.C. The hearing was to examine the claim process for victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An American white pelican has its wings checked during a physical examination at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital by Michael Adkesson and Michael O’Neill on July 21. The bird, along with four other pelicans, was rescued from the Gulf Coast oil spill and will be placed on permanent exhibit at the zoo. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Native people of the Gwich'in Nation form a human banner on the banks of the Porcupine River near Ft. Yukon, Alaska July 21, in regard to the BP oil spill with a message to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development. The images include a Porcupine caribou antler and a threatened Yukon River Salmon. (Camila Roy / Spectral Q via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Gerald Herbert / AP
    Above: Slideshow (15) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 4
  2. Image: Economic And Environmental Impact Of Gulf Oil Spill Deepens
    Mario Tama / Getty Images
    Slideshow (64) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 3
  3. Image: Oil Spill In The Gulf
    Digitalglobe / Getty Images Contributor
    Slideshow (81) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 2
  4. Image: Dispersed oil caught in the wake of a transport boat floats on the Gulf of Mexico
    Hans Deryk / Reuters
    Slideshow (53) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Month 1
  5. Image:
    Gerald Herbert / AP
    Slideshow (10) Oil spill disaster in the Gulf - Rig explosion

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