At Louisiana Diner, Regulars Grade Obama's Handling Of Spill Reviews of President Obama's handling of the oil spill were mixed at Dot's Diner in Metairie, La., just outside New Orleans. Obama pays his second visit to the region Friday.
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At Diner, Regulars Grade Obama's Handling Of Spill

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At Diner, Regulars Grade Obama's Handling Of Spill

At Diner, Regulars Grade Obama's Handling Of Spill

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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And no one was watching that presidential news conference more closely than people who live along the Gulf Coast. Yesterday, NPR's Don Gonyea was in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans, where he found a lunchtime crowd tuned into President Obama at a local diner. The reviews were mixed.

DON GONYEA: This is Dot's Diner, on a busy highway not too far from the airport. Just about everybody in here is a regular.

Mr. BUDDY CARVER (Retired Electrician): You've come to the right place, yeah. Nothing could be finer than being at Dot's Diner in the morning.

GONYEA: That's 78-year-old Buddy Carver, a retired electrician and part-time musician, and someone who doesn't understand all the heat the president is taking over the administration's handling of the oil spill.

Mr. CARVER: He's trying to do the best he can under the condition. I mean, who else could do any better? This is something that happens once in a lifetime, man. It ain't Obama's fault.

President BARACK OBAMA: Those skimmers, those boats, that boom, the people who are out there...

GONYEA: The president's image looked down on the room from the small, flat-screen TV mounted high in the corner over by the door. The TV is the most modern thing in the diner. Everything else has been here for a while: the stainless steel countertops, the old swivel stools. One cook and one waiter are on duty.

Forty-seven-year-old August Wallace stood listening to Obama as he waited for his carry-out order. An airport bus driver, he said he's a huge supporter of Mr. Obama and was very proud to vote for him. But on the response to the oil spill, Wallace says he's not seen nearly enough urgency from the White House or activity on the part of the president himself.

Mr. AUGUST WALLACE (Airport Bus Driver): What was the delay on his part? I guess he didn't see the magnitude of the problem. But now he sees it, but like the federal government, always a day late.

GONYEA: Wallace has lived in and around New Orleans his entire life. In terms of the long-range impact of the spill, he calls it a second Katrina. He says it's especially disappointing that, given New Orleans' recent history, the president did not react aggressively enough when the spill first happened.

Mr. WALLACE: It's a slow response, and I think he's, you know, he's got a lot of things going on at one time. But I just kind of wish he would have, you know, learned from the response of Katrina.

GONYEA: At a table over by the window, 76-year-old Jane Fleishman is looking at the president up on the TV, as well. She, too, is frustrated with how the administration has handled the response to the spill, but she says she does not agree with those who call this disaster President Obama's Katrina.

But she then goes on to cite one similarity she sees. She says New Orleans flooded following the hurricane because the federal government hadn't addressed problems with the levees. As for the BP oil spill, she says the government failed to provide proper oversight and tough enough rules.

Ms. JANE FLEISHMAN: It's a dreadful situation, but I just think there has to be more control over the oil companies. Instead of this dig, baby, dig, drill, baby, drill, they've got to put more restrictions on them.

GONYEA: Fleishman says she is pleased that the moratorium on new permits for deep-water drilling will continue for six months. And she said she's glad the president is coming to see the environmental damage first hand today.

But after the press conference had concluded and the TVs at Dot's Diner had returned to their usual talk shows and entertainment news, nobody here seemed to think news from the Gulf would get better anytime soon.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Metairie, Louisiana.

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