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With a plume of floating oil rapidly expanding, President Obama planned to visit the Gulf Coast Sunday for a first-hand look at the at the disastrous spill which remains unchecked as oil seeps from an uncapped well on the sea floor.
In a commencement speech at the University oif Michigan Saturday, the president talked about the government's role in dealing with the sticky, black crude oil and also the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 coal miners. "Government," he said, "is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that cause them." Obama has dispatched cabinet officers to Louisiana and provided federal resources and equipment to help contain the spill. But he has insisted the ultimate responsibility falls on the oil company, BP.
By Saturday at least 1.6 million gallons had leaked from the wellhead after an explosion last week on an offshore BP rig broke off pipelines and left 11 workers dead, the AP reported.
Obama's speech to graduates in Michigan Stadium was a primer on the role of government in society and a call for tolerance and diversity of opinion in what he described as a poisonous political climate. "These arguments we're having over (the role of) government, and health care, and war and taxes are serious arguments. They should arouse people's passions, and it's important for everyone to join in the debate with all the rigor that a free people require," he said before a crowd estimated at 92,000.
Obama said Americans "cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone's views and their judgment without questioning their motives and patriotism." Name-calling like "'Soviet-style takeover,' 'fascist' and 'right-wing nut' may grab headlines," he said, "but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian and even murderous regimes."
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