ABC News' Rick Klein reports: With President Obama vowing to seek out "whose ass to kick" as he ratchets up the anger over the BP oil mess, a Republican senator from the affected region said today that the Gulf Coast needs more action and less tough talk from the president.
Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., said on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” today that Obama needs to make fewer “photo-op”-style visits to the region, and take more of a direct leadership role.
“I don't think that talking is really doing the job. We don't just want to see him talk the talk, we want to see him walk the walk,” LeMieux said. “The president has been down to the Gulf for three photo-op opportunities in the last 45 days since this economic and environmental disaster started. What I want to see is the president down here in the Gulf working through the problem, managing solutions, pushing people for answers, overcoming obstacles, not just getting briefed about it in Washington, DC.”
He added: “I don't want to see him coming down, doing a photo-op, and going back to Chicago to play golf, or coming down, and then going back to Washington, DC, to go to the theater. I want to see him actively engaged [rather than] saying he's going to kick butt -- I'll use that because I've got a bunch of kids who are under seven and I don't want to say the other word -- that he'd kick butt.
“He doesn't even talk to Tony Hayward, CEO of BP. Whose butt is he kicking?”
LeMieux said one area the president can direct his butt-kicking is in making sure BP pays out damage claims promptly.
“We're finding out that the claims are not being paid as quickly as they could be. Sen. [David] Vitter and I have legislation to use right now on every barrel of oil and put in to a fund, to have that money administered right now to pay claims. Obviously BP will have to pay us back later, but I'd rather have to see the federal government working through the claims process than trusting BP who -- it's not in their interest to make these claims paid. So let's get that done. But first and foremost this is something that the commander-in-chief should be all over and on top of.”
“Get the smartest people in the world, push them for answers, meet with them every day, be on the ground seeing it for yourself. That kind of leadership matters. I've seen it first hand in Florida when we've had disasters, when the governor was showing that kind of leadership. We need to see that kind of leadership from the president. He can't outsource this story to others.”
LeMieux, who served as chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist, I-Fla., while the governor was still a Republican, said he and Crist knew nothing about the allegations of financial improprieties by former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “The governor and I aren't as much political allies anymore now, because he's running as an independent and I'm a Republican and I'm supporting Marco [Rubio], but still, the governor didn't know about this. And this is unfortunately what happens in these criminal investigations is that people seem to be willing to say anything to save their own skin. No one knew about this, that I'm aware of, this third-party entity that he set up, where the allegations are that he was putting money in his pocket. And it's unfortunate and it breaks the trust of all the people who contributed to the Republican Party.”
Watch the full interview with Sen. George LeMieux HERE .
For our “Post Politics” segment, we checked in with Michael Shear, who covers the White House for The Washington Post, on today’s big primary matchups in Nevada, California, Arkansas, and eight other states.
Watch the segment with Michal Shear HERE.