WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said he would fire BP CEO Tony Hayward for flippant comments and lashed out at media "talking heads," ratcheting up his rhetoric on the 50th day of the US oil disaster.
As Obama Tuesday apparently sought to contain further political damage over the greatest environmental calamity in US history, his top disaster aide reported more progress capturing oil spewing from a ruptured undersea well.
Hayward, whose sardonic English tones and comments, including a prediction that the Gulf spill would be "very, very modest," have irked some Americans, found himself directly in Obama's cross-hairs.
"He wouldn't be working for me after making any of those statements," Obama said on the NBC "Today Show" program, following criticism his public anger has been too tepid.
Hayward has since apologized for his remarks.
Obama also revealed that he had not personally spoken to Hawyard, since an explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, saying there would be little point.
"When you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's going to say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm interested in actions."
National incident coordinator Admiral Thad Allen however says he frequently speaks to the BP chief, seeking information, or ordering specific steps in the disaster mitigation effort.
Obama, who made the latest of his three trips to the disaster zone last week, insisted he had no time for playing politics as he dealt with the spill -- though his comments seem increasingly to have a political cast.
He said in the interview that he was looking for some "ass to kick" as recriminations mount and oil reaps a dreadful toll on seabirds, pristine Louisiana wetlands, teeming fishing grounds and idyllic Gulf of Mexico beaches.
He also rejected a media critique that he had been too slow to respond, or was not animated enough in his public comments.
"I'm going to push back hard on this because I think that this is an idea that got into folks' heads and the media is running with it.
"I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf," he said.
Commentators have drawn parallels between Obama's handling off the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, and his predecessor George W. Bush's botched management of Hurricane Katrina which devastated the same coastline in 2005.
But Obama scoffed at suggestions he should replace his cool demeanor for an orchestrated temper tantrum to appease his critics.
"This is not theater," Obama added. "I don't always have time to perform for the benefit of the cable shows," he said.
Political warning signs over the disaster are proliferating.
A recent CBS News poll showed only thirty-eight percent of Americans approve of the way the administration is dealing with the spill.
A Washington Post/ABC survey revealed more Americans disapprove of Obama's response to the oil spill than disapprove of Bush's Katrina performance.
But the CBS poll also showed that 68 percent disapprove of BP's showing, giving an insight in the administration's motivation for attacking the energy giant, given that political blame always seeks a resting place.
Political rumblings over the spill deepened as the undersea effort went on to capture spewing oil, and environmentalists tried to rescue wildlife choking in crude.
Allen said BP engineers had captured 14,842 barrels of oil over the last 24 hours from a containment cap placed over the well which blew on April 20, a significant increase from Monday's tally.
It is still unclear how much oil is spewing out of the busted wellhead, and officials have warned they will not be able to syphon off all of the excess crude until relief wells are dug -- likely not until August.
"We've gone from about 6,000 barrels up to almost 15,000," Allen said.
As part of a previous pledge to fund six berms in the Louisiana barrier islands project, at a cost of 360 million dollars, BP announced it would make an immediate payment of 60 million dollars to the state of Louisiana.
The administration has also ordered the firm not to "nickel and dime" the people of the region who are seeking compensation for lost livelihoods.
© AFP 2013