PASADENA, CA, August 18, 2016 – Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is again begging the world to pay attention.
Shortly after that category 3 hurricane devastated the southeastern United States, taking the lives of of roughly 1,500 people, Senator Barack Obama took to the Senate floor to discuss the issue.
Senator Obama, like many people including most notably Kanye West, bashed President Bush for the “ineptitude” of his response.
“But what must be said is that whoever was in charge of planning and preparing for the worst case scenario appeared to assume that every American has the capacity to load up their family in an SUV, fill it up with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk, and use a credit card to check in to a hotel on safe ground,” said President Obama. I see no evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive indifference on the part of our government towards the least of these.”
The response he was referring to involved President Bush flying over the devastation but not actually visiting ground zero till much later. President Bush was hammered in both the polls and the national press leaving the impression that the storm had dealt his presidency a blow from which he never recovered. (George W. Bush never recovered politically from Katrina)
Now, President Barack Obama is faced with a tragedy of his own. 13 people have been killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after a devastating flood swept across the same area that had been so hard hit eleven years before. The Red Cross is calling the flooding the greatest natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. On top of the loss of life, the cleanup numbers and the figures related to the amount of water are staggering. The Red Cross estimates their share of the cleanup will cost roughly $30,000,000.
What did President Obama do to respond to the part of the country that President Bush had so greatly disrespected? Nothing. In fact, arguably less than nothing. President Obama is currently on vacation and the Louisiana paper, The Advocate, published a magnificently written op-ed essentially begging the president to come visit the ravaged region. Here’s an excerpt.
From The Advocate:
“Sometimes, presidential visits can get in the way of emergency response, doing more harm than good. But we don’t see that as a factor now that flood waters are subsiding, even if at an agonizing pace. It’s past time for the president to pay a personal visit, showing his solidarity with suffering Americans.”
“And if the president can interrupt his vacation for a swanky fundraiser for fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, as he did on Monday, then surely he can make time to show up for a catastrophe that’s displaced thousands.”
“The optics of Obama golfing while Louisiana residents languished in flood waters was striking. It evoked the precedent of the passive federal response to the state’s agony in 2005, a chapter of history no one should ever repeat.”
“But a disaster this big begs for the personal presence of the president at ground zero. In coming here, the president can decisively demonstrate that Louisiana’s recovery is a priority for his administration – and the United States of America.”
“The president’s vacation is scheduled to wrap up on Sunday. But he should pack his bags now, and pay a call on communities who need to know that in a national catastrophe, they are not alone.”
President Obama took time out of his vacation to campaign for Hillary Clinton, but has declined to come to Baton Rouge.
The Washington Times reports:
“The White House response is that Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate “briefed the president on the resources that have been provided to support the response and recovery.” Mr. Obama directed FEMA to use “all resources available” to help in the recovery. But there were no changes in travel plans announced for the president, who is scheduled to stay on the island until Sunday.
Instead, Mr. Obama headed out later Wednesday to play more golf, his eighth round on the links since arriving on the island on Aug. 6.”
The White House said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will visit the flood zone in Louisiana on Thursday to review the government’s response.
You can’t compare Katrina and the Baton Rouge flooding in terms of damage and loss of life; Hurricane Katrina was an unimaginable natural disaster that the country is still reeling from. However, when you consider the fact that President Obama was able to travel to across the country to Oregon to push a gun control agenda at a “swanky fundraiser for fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton.”
It begs the question of whether or not the President has his priorities in line.
Terrible optics of an unfeeling and disconnected president are not new. When journalist James Foley was beheaded by ISIS in Syria President Obama’s decision to hit the golf course immediately after was commented on by The New York Times:
“Sometimes a round of golf is just a round of golf. And sometimes it reveals the essence of a man.”
“President Obama’s decision to hit the links and yuk it up with pals immediately after speaking about the beheading of James Foley was no ordinary mistake. Nor was it a simple gaffe.”
“The decision continues to cause an uproar because, like an X-ray, there is no escaping the image. It shows there is no there there.”
The president even admitted that he made a mistake by doing that, but yet, seems to not have learned from that mistake one bit.
Some of the criticism of President Bush in Katrina’s aftermath was seen as unfair as it should have instead been directed at people like Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff, government agencies like FEMA, and the grossly incompetent and corrupt leadership of New Orleans. But if we are going to criticize President Bush, there has to at least be a conversation about the fact that President Obama bashed Bush on the Senate floor but then didn’t even bother to cut his vacation short to visit a region that was literally begging him to come.
He was on the golf course, swimming in clear ocean waters, spending lates nights out and vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard
Over the past 8 years, leadership has not been a quality often associated with President Obama. Whether it’s the rapid retreat from the Middle East and capitulation to Russia and Iran in the process or pushing through Obamacare in the dark of night on straight partisan lines, it is clear that this this president is very focused on his best interests.
But he let the country down this week. There’s no way around that. Maybe he will change his mind and bow to public pressure in the next few days. I hope he does.
I criticize the president not because I disagree with him on almost every policy argument, but because the people there want him to go, and I can think of no greater responsibility of the president than to show solidarity with suffering Americans during a time of need.