Watch CBSN Live

Obama Forced to Become Defender-in-Chief Over Oil Spill Response

As President Obama sees the oil spill first hand today, he's hoping to answer the critics who say he's not been involved enough and the federal government has not done enough.

His personal involvement in the visit today, and yesterday's news conference, is the last effort his administration has to turn the tide of anger, frustration and discontent, now aimed at the White House.

Today he made a pledge to the people of the Gulf region: "You will not be abandoned, you will not be left behind... we are on your side and we will see this through."

While the questions still persist about how this leak, now some 40 days in, has yet to be stopped, and how the government wasn't able to stop the oil from contaminating the shores, beaches, marshes and wildlife of the gulf coast, Mr. Obama is trying to answer the unanswerable.

By taking responsibility, he's giving people a focal point on which to place blame. But not unlike a super hero using a shield, the president is using his credibility and relative popularity to blunt the criticism.

Obama to Gulf Residents: "We're In This Together"
Will Obama Increase his Presence on the Gulf Coast?
Obama Defends Oil Spill Response, Cites Mistakes
Obama on Katrina Comparison: "I'll Let You Decide"
Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

"My job is to get this fixed. And in case anybody wonders, in any of your reporting, in case you were wondering who's responsible, I take responsibility," he said yesterday at the White House.

Today in the Gulf region, he continued the personal appeal. After saying that the government will hold BP accountable for the costs of the incident, the president said "I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis, I'm the president and the buck stops with me."

Much of the criticism comes from the lack of answers. And for the White House, it's very likely that there are still no answers to many frustrated questions, so they may now believe their best way to defend the government's role in the oil spill is to have the president himself be the defender-in-chief.

Today, he admitted that the right answers may be hard to find.

"I would gladly do whatever it takes to end this disaster today," but he acknowledged that's not easily done.


"America has never experienced an event like this before... as we respond, not every judgment we make will be right the first time out... There are going to be a lot of judgment calls," he said.

He summed up the situation best when he added that there are "not a lot of silver bullets or perfect answers for the questions we face."

But even at the press conference, full of answers, he couldn't answer the any questions about the resignation of the head of the beleaguered Interior Department agency that was responsible for overseeing the oil companies in the gulf, the MMS.

"I'm telling you the -- I found out about it this morning. So I don't yet know the circumstances," he said.

It's a rare thing to hear the president of the United States that he didn't know something. But it illustrates how for many frustrated and angry Gulf residents, there are more questions than answers.

Was Elizabeth Birnbaum Fired? Don't Ask Obama
Obama: There's a Reason I Never Said "Drill, Baby, Drill"
Obama Reacts to MMS and Response
Obama: Malia Asked "Did you Plug The Hole Yet, Daddy?"
Oil Spill Hits Home for Obama
Obama: Critics "Don't Know the Facts"

Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.