Arriving on the Gulf Coast for the third time to assess the BP oil spill damage, President Obama is grappling with a public cry to get "fired up" about the catastrophe buffeting the region's economy, environment and spirit.
Calls from his supporters to show "he gets it" have only grown since the president visited the Gulf last week amid complaints he wasn't focused on the leak. Obama, who landed in Louisiana Friday afternoon and headed immediately into a briefing, says he's made the spill his top priority, but in recent days the White House has tried to show the president is as angry about the mess as he is determined to solve it.
"I am furious at this entire situation, because this is an example of where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions," Obama said in an interview Thursday. Asked whether BP was feeling the anger, he said: "They have felt the anger."
The president, in a sudden move, canceled plans to travel to Indonesia and Australia later in the month -- a trip that was already canceled earlier in the year because Obama wanted to concentrate on the health care debate in Congress.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the president was "enraged" about how long it's taken for BP to plug the leak.
At the same time, the White House is pushing back on the notion that the president should be jumping up and down about the spill.
"I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people. But that's not the job I was hired to do. My job is to solve this problem," Obama said in a televised interview Thursday night.
"Pounding on a podium isn't going to fix a hole in the ocean," Gibbs said Thursday. "I think what the American people and the citizens of the Gulf are expecting are results. And I think that's what the president will be measured by. I'll leave emotional psychiatry to others."
The president's tone has been ripe for criticism even among his supporters. Democratic strategist James Carville demanded that Obama "get down here," and film director Spike Lee urged the "calm" and "cool" president to, "one time, go off!" Jon Stewart, on "The Daily Show," ridiculed the president for trying to balance the ceremonial duties of the president -- like attendance at cultural heritage events -- with management of the spill.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Obama has "willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it."
Images of oil-soaked waterfowl were shown in heavy rotation in the media on Thursday, giving a glimpse into the potential damage the slick may cause to the coastline. Local officials have expressed grave concern about the harm the spill can do to tourism.
"It's just heartbreaking," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told Fox News on Friday about the images of wildlife.
BP said Friday it has started to capture and siphon some of the leaking oil after jamming a cap onto the well. The long-term solution -- drilling relief wells -- is not expected to be completed until August at the earliest.
Eleven workers were killed in the April 20 oil rig explosion that triggered the leak.