The sad fact is that he can't. Just like George W. Bush couldn't stop a hurricane or prevent its foreseeable impact on a city that took no care for its own welfare, Barack Obama can't plug an oil leak that is almost a mile below the surface of the ocean.
In a sense, he is being hoisted on his own petard. There are few, if any things, that he has been willing to admit that the federal government cannot do. This was supposed to be the moment when we begin to "provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless" and "when the rise of the oceans began to slow." Instead, it was the moment when we couldn't "plug the damn hole."
Of course, our expectations of the federal government have become oversized without regard to Barack Obama. We think that the President runs the economy and that the federal government ought to bend the laws of nature.
The irony is, having bought into and doubled down by these expectations, the President's first impulse was to blame BP. It was BP's fault. BP's mess. BP's problem.
All of this may be true, but, as he seems to have belatedly recognized, it was his problem as well. The more that he seemed to be blaming BP, the more it seemed that he was not accepting his own responsibility. As Peggy Noonan points out, Katrina fed a certain narrative about President Bush, i.e., that he was clueless and slow to respond. The oil spill underscores a developing narrative about President Obama, i.e., that he is aloof and arrogant. His indifference to concerns about illegal immigration, health care and the rather enormous increase in government spending is exacerbated by the impatient and peevish way in which he responds to criticism. His hectoring and defensive press conference did not help. He should wait at least another 309 days before doing it again.