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PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Laying the groundwork for an evening speech to the nation, President Barack Obama walked a pristine stretch of sand on Florida's shoreline Tuesday and pledged to "fight back with everything we've got" against the spreading oil lurking offshore.
In a speech at Pensacola's Naval Air Station, Obama took note of the painful contrasts around him: "The sand is white. The water's blue," he said. And yet, he added, "those plumes of oil are off the coast."
Obama's challenge was spelled out clearly in a sign held up by one of the passersby who watched the president's motorcade whisk through this beach town: "Lead now!" it commanded.
Speaking to troops at the base, Obama said the country faced an unprecedented environmental disaster and "we're going to continue to meet it with an unprecedented response."
"We're going to fight back with everything that we've got," he said.
With that, the president was wrapping up a two-day visit to the Gulf and flying back to Washington to outline his plans for the Gulf in a prime-time Oval Office speech. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier Tuesday that Obama was poised to seize the handling of oil spill damage claims from BP, if necessary, to ensure that people get the help they need to recover.
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