I'm betting political attunement caused the lagging response. Rahm and Axelrod figuring how to square the spill response with the Administrations position on off-shore drilling. Pondering how to spin the issue fogged the necessity to respond quick.
A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.
Now we have another disaster in more or less the same neck of the woods, and it takes the administration more than a week to really get moving.
Also, Pundita's take: Pundita: Are you sitting down for this? New York Times creeps close to criticizing Obama’s response to oil spill