BREAKING (10:29 am): First head rolls… Elizabeth Birnbaum fired as director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service, sources tell AP.

–Updated: “Top kill” reportedly working

He blew it. Obama faces a meltdown akin to the unraveling of his predecessor, George W. Bush. A press conference and a visit to the region are simply too little too late. It doesn’t matter whether government could do any better than the oil companies. The political fallout has taken hold. Obama failed to manage a massive crisis. There’s no fixing this failure. … – Craig Crawford

Full coverage at Huffington Post

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 53% of Americans give Pres. Obama a failing grade on his handling of the BP blowout. It’s been earned.

So, on day 38, Pres. Obama is finally standing before the press to answer questions. This after an embarrassing Bushesque moment that found him at a San Francisco fundraiser for Sen. Boxer, while Gov. Bobby Jindal, James Carville, Donna Brazile and a chorus of others were screaming bloody murder for Obama to act.

What could he have done before today? This is what a president does who feels the nation’s pain, but also the screaming cries in the Gulf.

– Four weeks ago he should have done a closed-door meeting with the families of the 11 men who died, but also others on the BP rig, bringing experts with him so that he could hear and someone could record what is known about what happened before this accident occurred.

– Two weeks ago Pres. Obama should have taken BP off point, come before the people to announce it, putting the U.S. military in charge, with BP as back-up, also bringing in leading experts from every American oil company in the country.

– Two weeks ago Pres. Obama should have gone before the public to express what is now a scream from the people. That BP fouled our Gulf Coast, but also illustrating his own pain at what’s happening. It’s Pres. Obama who should have been the point man from the start, instead of sending bureaucrats out weeks later, people who either read from prepared speeches or droned on like robots, without adding anything but political gibberish to the horrific story.

– Instead of sending the esteemed Thad Allen out to delineate the civil and federal separation of duties, as has been done, Pres. Obama should have told BP from the start that they and their affiliated companies would not have primary decision making, evidence taking, or fact gathering. Then he should have made sure that independent people and entities were on point with the U.S. military.

The list goes on from there.

What can he do today?

– First, Pres. Obama should appeal to the Senate to immediately lift the liability caps on damages, naming names of senators who stand in the way of this important move.

– Pres. Obama should bring down the permits Gov. Bobby Jinal requested and personally put them in his hands. Then he should ask Mr. Jindal what else is needed. Obama should then get on the phone and demand everything that Mr. Jindal needs is given to him, without hesitation. A joint press conference should then be done, with Obama asking Jindal if there is anything else he needs. If Jindal says no, then Obama should say the governor has the number of the White House task force and he is to call if anything else is required.

– Most importantly, he should announce that he’s asking Congress to outlaw ultra-deep drilling off the coast of America’s shores. The 6-month moratorium on offshore drilling is now in place way too late. However, that’s not near enough. Ultra-deep drilling like what BP attempted should be outlawed.

– Pres. Obama can announce a townhall in Louisiana, then invite every fisherman, business owner and anyone else to it.

– Obama should also say that now that the federal gov. and the U.S. military is on point, there will be complete transparency on the science, the wildlife and natural habitat stats, as well as what happened and how it happened.

– Obama then should announce a team of scientists who will transparently asses the damage to the Barataria Estuary, as well as the wetlands, but also areas where oysters and shrimp live, to assess the damage of the dispersent chemicals on these areas, but also the dangers to people who eat the fish in the Gulf Coast zone impacted by BP’s corporate malfeasance.

– Pres. Obama should announce that not only will BP pay financial damages, but when the time comes BP executives could be liable for much more, hinting that criminal charges could be coming, though it’s obviously not the time to announce them now. But he should make the threat clear.

Oh, and one more thing. If Pres. Obama can announce that BP’s “top kill” is working so far, which reports breaking are now saying is true, it would help immensely. However, there will still be questions about why it took so long to get the material in place for the “top kill” and why the federal government didn’t insist that there be a worst case scenario plan in place in case what we’ve seen happened occurred. A “solution” on day 38 after the Barataria Estuary has been destroyed, chemicals polluting seafood and ruining businesses, plus people now getting sick, simply isn’t all that impressive. We can talk about how it could be worse if the “top kill” doesn’t work or hold, but that hardly makes up for BP and the feds not being prepared to protect the Gulf and the way of life of the Americans hurt by BP’s criminal negligence and the federal government’s obvious paralysis in a crisis.

There are more things that need to be done, especially since Pres. Obama has up to this day, handled the BP blowout like it was one in ten events on any given day, instead of the most important national emergency on his plate. He can never undo his hands off lack of leadership, the mistake to leave BP on point for 37 days, or his coldness to the impact of this tragedy and his lack of empathy, let alone the San Francisco photo op that lingers in many minds.

It’s clear that Pres. Obama doesn’t do empathy willingly. If it is revealed later today at his press conference, which will be held at 12:45 pm, it’s only because he was pushed, because somebody in his political office informed him that his presidency is on the line.

Obama-oil soaked dead water fowl photo compilation by the New York Times, using photos from Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press, Cheryl Gerber.