White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One today that President Obama’s Monday visit to areas affected by Hurricane Isaac was planned before GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced plans to visit Louisiana today.
Isaac, now a tropical depression, has dumped more rain on the region than Hurricane Katrina, and is moving up the Mississippi Valley with more threats of flooding and tornadoes. Though New Orleans was generally spared, some Gulf Coast areas saw worse flooding than Katrina.
Obama is skipping a Cleveland campaign event to go to Louisiana on Monday, but keeping a Toledo date that day before flying south.
Carney refused to answer a question about whether the White House thought that Romney’s quick visit could be a “distraction” to relief efforts.
“The broader question is one I think you would need to address to state and local officials. I just don’t have any way to assess that,” the press secretary said. “…Obviously, as has been the case with previous natural disasters and other events similar to that, there are assessments being made all the time about whether the president should visit and when, and always the caveat is introduced that we want to make sure that we’re not affecting response efforts.”
Carney also carefully answered a question about what a private citizen like Romney could accomplish in a Gulf visit.
“I think that it’s always important to draw attention to the fact that individuals and families and business owners are profoundly affected by storms like Isaac, and that’s an important thing to do,” he said.
Carney said Obama “did not have an opportunity to watch any of the convention coverage last night” because “the president tends to consume his news the old-fashioned way, via print.”
Regarding Clint Eastwood’s speech, Carney said, “I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching last night.”
The press secretary said he spoke for himself in criticizing the lack of Afghanistan mention in Romney’s speech. “I was surprised not to hear mention of the 70,000 men and women who are serving in Afghanistan, executing a mission that is profoundly important to America’s national security in a conflict that was the direct result of an attack on the United States by al Qaeda,” he said.