White House Correspondent
Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live
" on Thursday night, President Barack Obama conveyed an aggressive, no-nonsense attitude toward his handling of the BP oil spill, challenging critics who have said the White House did not respond forcefully enough to the nation's worst environmental disaster on record.
From the beginning of his interview with King, Obama painted a picture of a White House that has been strong and proactive in its dealings with the oil company. He said the administration put "pressure on BP to activate their response" immediately following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and sent top scientists to "look over BP's shoulder" to figure out how to plug the leak, according to a transcript provided by CNN.
When asked about BP's liability for the spill, Obama replied: "What we've said [to BP] is, you're going to pay. ... They're responsible. So they've got to pick up the tab for the cleanup, the damages, fishermen who are unable to fish right in the middle of their most important season." The president also stood behind Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is overseeing the response, noting that he is "somebody who has been dealing with oil spills for 39 years now."
Obama remained firm on his commitment to explore offshore drilling as a source of domestic energy, saying he was "supportive of offshore drilling if it can be done safely and it doesn't result in these kinds of horrible environmental disasters."
Pundits have been particularly critical of Obama's emotional response
to the BP disaster. Critics have said the president has remained too aloof in the weeks following the disaster, and has not visibly channeled any frustration or anger at the damage in the gulf. To these detractors, Obama responded: "I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people. But ... my job is to solve this problem, and ultimately this isn't about me and how angry I am. Ultimately this is about the people down in the gulf who are being impacted and what am I doing to make sure that they're able to salvage their way of life."
The president also addressed the recent Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla
, but refused to place blame. "I think that we need to know what all the facts are" and that the United States would wait for the results of an "effective investigation." In a press conference Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that the investigation may be handled by Israeli authorities rather than an international team.
Obama also had the opportunity to weigh in on lighter topics, including the future of basketball star LeBron James. Echoing advice he gave to the player in an earlier interview with sportscaster Marv Albert
, Obama said: "It's all about having a team concept that works. He hasn't quite gotten that yet. I think it'd be a wonderful story if LeBron says, 'You know what, I'm going to stay here in Cleveland.' He's from Ohio. That's a town that has had some tough times."
Thursday marked Obama's 500th day in office. Despite problems and controversies, the president seemed undeterred in his enthusiasm. "This is the best job on earth" he said. "It's an extraordinary privilege to be able to wake up every day and know that you have the opportunity to serve the American people and make their lives a little bit better. "