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Obama played his cards right on BP

By James Carville, CNN Contributor
  • James Carville was critical of the federal government's early handling of the oil disaster
  • He says it now is clear President Obama handled a tough situation very well
  • He credits Obama for putting Thad Allen in charge, setting up BP restitution fund, other steps
  • Carville: "All of us in the region need to stay vigilant and aggressive"

Editor's note: CNN political contributor James Carville was chief strategist for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. Carville is a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, where he teaches political science at Tulane University and serves as co-chairman of the 2013 Super Bowl Host Committee

(CNN) -- My mother, Ms. Nippy Carville, was a woman of many talents. Two in particular stand out. She was a superb cook (the author of a successful cookbook), and she was an excellent bridge player.

She always cautioned me that it was important that one "review the bidding" before the play. Now that it's becoming apparent that the efforts to cap the well at Deepwater Horizon are going to be successful, we should pause and pay homage to Ms. Nippy's advice by reviewing the bidding.

Any fair assessment would have to conclude that in spite of some people's criticism of the early response, (and by "some people" I mean Ms. Nippy's firstborn son James), one also must give credit to a much improved and vigorous response to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf.

So, let's review the bidding: First, the decision to keep the unflappable retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen in place as national incident commander, in spite of considerable opposition from some local politicians, has proven to be wise.

Video: Oil still threatens Gulf waters
Video: Oil's vanishing act continues

Second, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced a criminal investigation into the BP disaster, it was a demonstration that the Obama administration meant business in dealing with this catastrophe.

Third, the establishment of the $20 billion restitution fund administered by Ken Feinberg was the ultimate statement of the seriousness with which this situation was being addressed by the administration.

Fourth, people who have deep knowledge of the events in the Gulf give substantial credit to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other experts from government labs who were brought in to assist with the successful capping of the well.

We in the Gulf region, in particular those of us in Louisiana, have a long way to go. We need our government to remain vigilant in addressing this. We need a lot of research into the science of the effects of the spill. And in the words of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, we need to continue to have the heel of our boot on the neck of BP.

All of us in the region need to stay vigilant and aggressive in being sure that the inevitable "It's time to move on" mentality does not set in. Trust me. The last thing we need to do is move on until our precious coastline is both restored and renewed.

I don't know many people -- and no Democrats -- who were as tough on the Obama administration as I was when the oil started gushing.

But for now I'll take Mississippi governor -- and chairman of the Republican Governors' Association -- Haley Barbour saying President Obama has "done more right than wrong." In fact, I'll up Gov. Barbour's bid one and say that as of late, President Obama has done a lot more right than wrong.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Carville