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Bob Graham vows to give BP, big oil a fair hearing

WASHINGTON -- Bob Graham said he didn't hesitate when White House officials called for him to head an independent commission into the Gulf oil spill.

"This was so important, so immediate and will have such a big impact on Florida and, if the president asks you to do something, you can't say no,'' the former Florida governor and U.S. senator told McClatchy on Saturday.

Although news of Graham's appointment leaked out Friday, President Barack Obama made the announcement Saturday morning in his weekly radio address.

Obama said he tapped Graham to co-chair the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling along with former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Bill Reilly.

The president said no sitting government employees or elected officials would sit on the commission and it would be bipartisan.

Graham is a Democrat; Reilly is a Republican. The commission will issue a report within six months.

Graham said he's coming into the assignment with an open mind.

"I've been following it all, but I'm reticent to talk about any personal assessment because we're going to get to know a lot more over the next few months and I don't want to prejudge our conclusions,'' he said.

Graham said the commission will answer two questions: "What happened, and from this what recommendations can we offer on future offshore drilling national policy.''

Graham opposed offshore drilling as a senator -- and as a presidential contender -- but he said that shouldn't be read as an indicator that the commission will favor any particular conclusion on offshore drilling.

"I don't think my designation sends any signal,'' he said. "We should be in a position to have good information about the situation and based on that, come to a solid judgment and conclusion.''

Obama said Saturday that he'll appoint five more members to the panel, while Graham said one of the first steps will be to appoint an executive director and pull together a staff.

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