Obama Back in Chicago After Gulf Visit

President picked up tar balls on oil-fouled beach

By Andrew Greiner
|  Friday, May 28, 2010  |  Updated 8:49 PM CDT
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    The First Family appears to be hosting a party at their Hyde Park home Friday, following the president's day-trip to Louisiana.

    People arriving have their names checked off a list and are escorted to the family home.  Among the attendees is Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

    Obama flew back to O’Hare Airport Friday evening, helicoptered to Soldier Field, then motorcaded back to his home. Neighbors lined up and waved at his motorcade along 47th Street and Greenwood. One home even had “Welcome Home B.O.” signs on its wrought iron fence.

    He spent the day personally confronting the spreading damage wrought by the crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico -- and the bitter anger that's rising onshore.  He heard "heartbreaking stories" of loss and at times knelt to pick up tar balls on an oil-fouled beach.

    "It's an assault on our shores, on our people, on the regional economy and on communities like this one,'' he said from
    this small barrier island town threatened by what is now established as the largest oil spill in American history. "People are watching their livelihoods wash up on the beach."

    For over two hours, he attended a briefing Friday at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grand Isle, La., by Adm. Thad Allen, who is overseeing the response to the spill. An oil rig leased by BP PLC exploded April 20 and later sank, killing 11 people and releasing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf.

    The president's visit, his second to the devastated region since the tragedy began, comes at a time of escalating anger and frustration along the coast, and in the country at large, with the inability of BP and the government to stop the flow of oil that is damaging marine life, wildlife and the local economy.

    But some of those feeling the effects of the oil that is soiling birds and darkening beaches along the coast had mixed feelings about whether Obama should even come to see what is happening along the coast.

    "He'll have a better idea of what he needs to do or get other people to do," said Donald Lefort, 41, a convenience store clerk in Venice, La., which has become a staging area for efforts to fight the oil.

    Larry Freman, 72, who was cleaning up around his vacation home on Grand Isle's main drag, which usually is packed with vacationers this close to Memorial Day, said Obama should stay home.

    "I think he's wasting his time coming here," the oil business veteran said.

    Buggie Vegas, owner of Bridge Side Cabins and Marina on Grand Isle, criticized the federal response but said it would be helpful for Obama to see the effects of the disaster.

    "I think he's going to get the message when he comes down and sees how bad it is," Vegas said. 

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