White House: Oil Spill Isn't Our Katrina

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told Bob Schieffer Sunday that the United States government is doing "everything humanly and technologically possible" to stop the oil leak in the Gulf - despite criticism that it has left too much responsibility to oil company BP and needs to do more.

"The Coast Guard was on the scene moments after the rig exploded in April, Gibbs said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "It certainly has been weeks, and the government is doing everything humanly and technologically possible to plug the hole 5,000 feet below the ocean, and to do everything we can to contain its spread and to deal with its environmental and its economic impacts.

"The president has told the team to spare nothing in trying to cap this well," he said, later adding: "Every bit of government has been activated to try to plug this hole."

Schieffer noted that both Democrats and Repubicans have suggested BP is "lying," "covering up" and "shouldn't be trusted." He asked Gibbs if the federal government trusts the company and what it is telling them.

"Well, Bob, BP is the responsible party, they own the well, they're responsible for capping it," he said. "That effort is overseen by and directed by Admiral Thad Allen, and our commanders on the ground in Louisiana."

Gibbs said that if Admiral Allen has a concern with BP's actions he "calls their CEO on his cell phone."

He acknowledged that "we've had some problems with BP's lack of transparency," noting that it took ten days for a video feed of the leak to be made public.

He said that the government had sent letters to get the company to post its air and water quality data and to "ensure that the dispersants that they're spraying on top of the water and using at a sub-sea level are the least-toxic available."

Asked about a possible criminal investigation by the Justice Department, Gibbs noted that Justice "has been down in the Gulf to look at and to gather information on this," though he said the first priority is to plug the hole.

Gibbs said he had been frustrated that at a contentious press briefing Friday reporters had suggested the government was "standing around doing nothing and hoping for the best.

"I don't think anybody could credibly say … that the government has 'stood around, done nothing and hoped for the best,'" Gibbs said. "We were activated the moment that this oil rig exploded. This has been on the president's agenda ever since that happened."

Asked Schieffer: "Do you think this could be your administration's Katrina?"

"If you look back at what happened in Katrina, the government wasn't there to respond to what was happening," Gibbs replied. "That quite frankly was the problem. Even tracking the hurricane for days and knowing fairly precisely where it was going to hit.

"I think the difference in this case is we were there immediately. We have been there ever since."

Gibbs was also asked about Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Ran Paul's comment that President Obama's criticisms of BP are "un-American." [Paul complained of a "blame-game society" in which someone must always be criticized despite the fact that "maybe sometimes accidents happen."]

"I will tell this to Rand Paul and anybody else that is listening: Laws that were passed after the Exxon Valdez ensured that the taxpayers don't get a bill for this," Gibbs replied. "BP will pay for every bit of this … we have to regulate this industry, we have to make sure that their safety standards are up to the very latest and highest standards whenever they do something like this, drilling in such a precious ecosystem as the Gulf of Mexico."

Schieffer also noted that Sarah Palin drew a link earlier that morning between the response to the spill and what she cast as Mr. Obama's cozy relationship with oil companies tied to their support for his presidential campaign.

"Sarah Palin was involved in that election, but I don't think, apparently, was paying a whole lot of attention," Gibbs said. "I'm almost sure that the oil companies don't consider the Obama administration a huge ally - we proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge for gasoline.

"My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what's going on in and around oil drilling in this country," Gibbs said.

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