Struggling to show leadership in a crisis, President Barack Obama is embarking on a three-state tour of Gulf Coast states tainted by oil before speaking to the nation about the country's worst environmental disaster and what to expect in the weeks ahead.
Before the start Monday of a two-day trip to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the White House announced Obama would order BP to establish a major victims' compensation fund. When he returns to Washington on Tuesday evening Obama will use his first Oval Office speech as president to address the catastrophe.
BP said in a statement that its costs for responding to the spill had risen to $1.6 billion, including new $25 million grants to Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. It also includes the first $60 million for a project to build barrier islands off the Louisiana coast. The estimate does not include future costs for scores of damage lawsuits already filed.
Obama's first three trips to the Gulf took him to the hardest-hit state, Louisiana. On Monday, Day 56 since BP's leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and unleashed a fury of oil into the Gulf, he's flying to Gulfport, Miss. From there he'll travel along the coast to Alabama, where oil was washing up in heavy amounts along the shores Sunday in the eastern part of the state.
He'll be met by state and local officials eager for him to show command, provide manpower and supplies and also tell the public that despite the catastrophe that's crippling the fishing and tourist trades, many beaches are still open.