As Richard M. Nixon could have told Barack Obama, any time you’re on the beach in dress clothes and the press is watching, it’s probably not good news.

In this case, in an embarrassingly small-ball version of “Message: I Care,” President Obama got himself caught on video explaining to Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph how tar balls could be cleaned up manually from the beaches where they’ve washed up.

If Ms. Randolph asked the president, “Um… but what about the marshes around the corner drenched in floating oil, or the massive underwater plumes — how do we clean those up?!”, it didn’t make it into this clip.

But, to be fair, in his prepared remarks at the scene, Obama made a seemingly honest effort to recognize the grave toll of the catastrophe wrought by Big Oil, and how the government he heads is obligated to respond:

As I’ve said before, BP is the responsible party for this disaster.  What that means is they’re legally responsible for stopping the leak and they’re financially responsible for the enormous damage that they’ve created.  And we’re going to hold them accountable, along with any other party responsible for the initial explosion and loss of life on that platform.

But as I said yesterday, and as I repeated in the meeting that we just left, I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis.  I’m the President and the buck stops with me.  So I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this catastrophe, to defend our natural resources, to repair the damage, and to keep this region on its feet.  Justice will be done for those whose lives have been upended by this disaster, for the families of those whose lives have been lost — that is a solemn pledge that I am making.

. . . To the people of the Gulf Coast:  I know that you’ve weathered your fair share of trials and tragedy.  I know there have been times where you’ve wondered if you were being asked to face them alone.  I am here to tell you that you’re not alone.  You will not be abandoned.  You will not be left behind.  The cameras at some point may leave; the media may get tired of the story; but we will not.  We are on your side and we will see this through.  We’re going to keep at this every day until the leak has stopped, until this coastline is clean, and your communities are made whole again.  That’s my promise to you.  And that is a promise on behalf of a nation.  It is one that we will keep.

Fine, Mr. President; we’ll be watching to make sure you do.

And for myself, I acknowledge that an epic, slow-motion disaster like this is a tough situation to deal with, and I’m sure President Obama feels like he’s doing the best he can within the constraints he has to operate under… just like with everything else.  It’s just painfully awkward to watch, that’s all.