Obama previews oil spill address in Florida visit

President Obama previewed part of his Oval Office address in an appearance here Tuesday morning, saying he will talk about the need for BP to pay out claims "quickly and fairly'' to compensate victims of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.Speaking to reporters at a beachside restaurant, Obama said that he wanted a more "nimble'' response to the oil spill. He said he would appoint separate commanders for Florida, Alabama and Louisiana to give residents of these states a more direct point of contact with federal officials presiding over the recovery.

Obama sat on a picnic bench at the Fish Sandwich Snack Bar, his back to Pensacola Beach. He was surrounded by aides, local officials, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and the owner of the business, Mike Pinzone. He said Pinzone and other business owners have suffered a dramatic fall-off in revenue since the spill began and have not been made whole by BP.

In his Oval Office speech, set for 8 p.m. EDT, Obama said he will discuss how "businesses need help right now.''

He said, "I will be their fierce advocate to make sure they are getting the compensation they need to get through what is going to be a difficult season.''

Obama on Tuesday wrapped up his fourth visit to the gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20. All the visits are meant to show a measure of command and personal engagement that critics say was lacking in Obama's early response to the spill.

Obama toured Alabama, Mississippi and Florida over two days before returning to Washington to deliver the first Oval Office address of his tenure. Flying home on Air Force One, he put in a call to Gen. David Petraeus to check on his health. Petraeus, head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, briefly lost consciousness during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Obama took away the impression that Petraeus was "doing great,'' Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton later told reporters.

"Sounds like he was just a little dehydrated,'' Burton said.

Hewing to his message, Obama batted away questions that didn't involve the oil spill. A reporter tried to ask him about two White House aides who dangled job offers to a pair of senatorial candidates as a sweetener for dropping Democratic primary campaigns. Obama interrupted before the question was out.

"Thank you, we're talking about the gulf today,'' he said.

As Obama drove through Pensacola in his motorcade, onlookers held up signs reflecting the mix of emotions triggered by the oil spill.

"Stop Procrastinating,'' one sign read. "We Need Action, Not Words,'' read another. A third: "I Support You, President Obama.''

Obama began the day with a walk on the beach in the company of Crist, a moment clearly crafted for photographers. The two men strolled along a boardwalk and down a white sandy beach to the water's edge, trailed by photographers and TV camera crews. About 150 yards away, kept at a distance, a crowd cheered. Both men waved. They stood together on Pensacola Beach, gazing out at the water. Obama, wearing dark pants and a blue checked shirt, sleeves rolled up, periodically gestured down the beach. There were no evident signs of oil, though Coast Guard officials said they've spotted oil in the area.

After his meeting with Crist, Obama spoke to troops at a local naval base, then flew home.

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