While people were dying, losing their homes and swimming for their lives in Louisiana, it wasn’t lost on the media that the President of the United States was on vacation. In fact, as the days rolled by and the waters rolled on, not only did Barack Obama fail to show up in the affected areas, but there wasn’t even a statement of support on the White House web page. This has been placed in stark contrast with the rapid response from the West Wing when various pop stars and other entertainment figures have passed away.
One place I saw the unrest over this popping up this weekend was in my Twitter feed, where actress Kirstie Alley went on a bit of a tweeting tirade against Obama for his lack of engagement. (Western Journalism)
Actress Kirstie Alley ignited what she herself called a Twitter “firestorm” on Friday after she lashed out at President Barack Obama for idling the days away in Martha’s Vineyard while thousands of people were suffering in flood-ravaged Louisiana.
“On a golf course in Martha’s Vineyard instead of in Louisiana?” Alley tweeted, along with a video of Obama criticizing former President George W. Bush for Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
Alley made it clear she was non-partisan in her condemnation of presidential inaction.
I thought Bush waited too long also! I was in Katrina on day 5 & I’m just a gorgeous actress :)THEY needed HELP! I didn’t need an invitation
Obama wasn’t the only taking criticism for inaction from unexpected places. One black resident of Baton Rouge was demanding answers from the Black Lives Matter movement. Where are they while the world is washing away?
“Where are the Black Lives Matter and the Black Panthers?” Washington said. “Because I ain’t seen one Black Panther boat or one Black Lives Matter boat. All I see is our own people from our own city saving us.”
I get it. I understand the upset outbursts and the hurt feelings because we’ve become acclimated to politicians behaving certain ways in the modern era. And there was a time when my blood used to run a bit more on the hot side and I would have stamped my feet along with everyone else. But as the years have gone by, I find this question less and less interesting. What are we really accomplishing with presidential visits to natural disaster areas other than setting up politically oriented photo ops or chances for opponents to score a few cheap shots? I felt the same way when that photo of George W. Bush staring out the window of Air Force One at the devastation of Katrina was released. (Whoever set up that shot should have been fired.)
What is it we’re expecting of the President when he or she arrives on the scene? I suppose they could hand out a few bottles of Aquafina before they leave, but I don’t think Barack Obama would be particularly well suited to spending a few days filling up sand bags. Meanwhile, their security details and motorcade will be tying up traffic for relief vehicles and construction crews. And it’s not as if many of the locals are going to see him anyway. We wouldn’t expect people from the surrounding parishes to drop everything and hop in the few cars that weren’t washed away to attempt crossing even more flooded roadways to go see him. I suppose they could watch his appearance on television, but that’s only if you can find a working one in a place where there’s still power.
In the end, the state has the primary responsibility for disaster response. The Governor belongs on the scene and the President should just be making sure that emergency funds are promptly released and that if the state requests additional law enforcement or the Army Corps of Engineers that they show up promptly. Other than that, a simple televised statement would suffice. (And yes, the President should have done at least that much.)
Just remember to take your golf cap off and leave the clubs outside before the cameras go live.