- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 2, 2010

Obama administration officials hit the Sunday talk-show circuit to defend their response to the massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, stressing that President Obama has been on top of the situation since “Day One” and shrugging off comparisons to the George W. Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said it’s British Petroleum — the company that owns the well that exploded on April 20 — that needs to be doing more to contain the disaster.

“British Petroleum needs to get the spill stopped,” she said. “They are ultimately responsible.”

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Although Mr. Obama did not make his first public statement on the situation until nine days after the initial oil rig explosion, Ms. Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was involved early on behind the scenes, overseeing the administration’s response. Asked about critics who have called the disaster Mr. Obama’s Katrina — for which former President George W. Bush was excoriated — Ms. Napolitano said, “That is a total mischaracterization.”

“The administration responded all hands on deck from Day One. What happened is the situation itself evolved” from an explosion and a search-and-rescue mission to an effort to contain the massive leak, she said.

Mr. Salazar, who joined her on “Fox News Sunday,” likewise added, “We were stepping on the neck of BP” almost immediately.

Noting that 30 percent of the nation’s domestic oil production comes from the Gulf, Mr. Salazar said the administration intends to “move forward thoughtfully” with respect to its offshore drilling plans. White House senior adviser David Axelrod last week said no new leases will be granted until an investigation of the Louisiana disaster is completed.

The White House has been out front in recent days trying to head off any perceptions of a slow response, with press secretary Robert Gibbs posting a lengthy summary of federal assistance efforts on the administration’s website Saturday and Mr. Obama scheduled to visit the area Sunday.

Ms. Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, weighed in on the state’s controversial immigration law in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” calling it “a shame.”

“It’s bad for law enforcement; it takes law enforcement off of the streets and really looking at the crimes they need to prioritize in their own communities and really puts everyone at risk,” she said of the measure, which criminalizes being in the country illegally.