WH Not Only Fighting Oil Spill, but PR Battle Too

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It is clear that frustration is growing both inside and outside the White House, as thousands of barrels of oil continue to gush into the Gulf of Mexico.

President Obama expressed his concern at a fundraiser Tuesday evening, “Nobody is more upset than me because, ultimately, like any president when this happens on your watch, then everyday you are thinking, ‘How does this get solved?’" Obama isn’t the only one asking questions, and they are increasingly coming from those who normally defend the President. Top Democratic strategist James Carville, a Louisiana native, was clearly outraged Wednesday when he launched into a passionate tirade. “These people are crying, begging for something down here, and it looks like he’s not involved,” Carville continued, “We’re about to die down here!”

Supporters of the president say critics don’t understand the response team that he’s already mobilized, but concede those efforts may not have been effectively communicated. In order to close that perception gap, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona says, “They are going to continue to talk about what they have done in response, what the president is going to continue to do in response, and give Americans the confidence that this is a hands-on White House.” Cardona says she’s been in contact with the administration since “day one,” and that it has directed significant personnel and equipment to the region in order to help.

However, those on the frontlines seem unconvinced. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) says, “We've been frustrated with the disjointed effort to date that has too often meant too little too late for the oil hitting our coast.” New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune, published a tough love editorial Tuesday. It reads, in part: “President Obama has the bully pulpit to come down hard on BP and its executives, and he should use it. Most Americans are ready for the president to light a fire under the company and under the bureaucracy overseeing the disaster response.”

On Friday, President Obama will visit the Gulf for a second time since oil began gushing from the sea floor. But first, he’ll hold a Thursday news conference which presents a prime opportunity to regain control of the public relations battle. Skeptics, like Karl Rove, say the pressure is on. “While it may be too late, and too little, at least tomorrow he should show up and say, ‘Here's what we've directed BP to do,’” but Rove adds, “Remember if he does so it would have taken him 38 days to have done that.”