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In an exclusive interview, President Barack Obama tells NBC News’ Matt Lauer he is talking to Gulf experts because he wants to know, “whose ass to kick,” regarding the devastating oil spill.  President Obama sat down with Lauer today to discuss the disaster in the Gulf and the controversy over his administration’s response to the crisis.  The interview will air Tuesday, June 8 on “Today” and is Obama’s first network interview since the oil spill. 

Excerpts below.  Mandatory credit NBC News’ “Today” with interview airdate. 

Lauer spoke to President Obama today in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he spoke at the graduation ceremony for Kalamazoo Central High School.  The school won the White House’s Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

Jim Bell is the executive producer of “Today” (Monday - Friday, 7-11 a.m.).


PRESIDENT OBAMA: I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf.  A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.


LAUER: To solve the problem you need to have a reliable partner.  Let me read you some of things that Mr. Hayward has said over the course of this disaster.  He said, “The Gulf of Mexico is a big ocean.  The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water value;” - somewhat obvious – “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very very modest.” And then he said, “no one wants to end more than I do, I want my life back, family members of those 11 people who died on the rig, and people's whose lives are going to be changed for years want their lives back too.” He doesn't work for you but if he did, would you want him out?

OBAMA: He wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements.  First of all we're going to have to find out why this thing went in the first place.  And the fact of the matter is there is going to be a thorough review, and I don't want to prejudge it, but the initial reports indicate their may be situations in which not only human error was involved, but you also saw some corner cutting in terms of safety.  And the bottom line is this - that BP is a multi-billion dollar corporation.  It's talking about paying 10.5 billion in dividends for this quarter.  We are going to have to make sure that not only do they shut down the cap, we are not only going to have to make sure any deep well drilling process out there is in fact fail safe, and oil companies know what they’re doing, but we also have to make sure that every single person that has been affected by this is properly compensated and made whole.