News & Politics

President Obama Mute on Epic Flooding in Louisiana

President Barack Obama during a round of golf on Martha's Vineyard in 2016 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Between August 8-14, Louisiana was pummeled with about 6.9 trillion gallons of rain in what has been called the storm of the century. More than 40,000 homes have been damaged and 12 deaths across the state have been reported due to flooding. An astounding 20,000 people and 1,000 pets have been rescued. You can learn how to help the victims by clicking here.

President Obama on Sunday officially declared a disaster for the flooded parts of the state, freeing up federal aid to help with the disaster. But the president—who was one of the loudest voices slamming President Bush after Hurricane Katrina—has not yet put out an official statement, or made any plans to visit the beleaguered state.

Obama did emerge from his golf cart briefly on Monday to attend a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton on Martha’s Vineyard, where he and his family are vacationing.

One paper in Baton Rouge is calling the president out for his seeming indifference to the human suffering. In a widely disseminated editorial, The Advocate begged the president to cut his vacation short and pay a visit to “the most anguished state in the union.”

Last week, as torrential rains brought death, destruction and misery to Louisiana, the president continued his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, a playground for the posh and well-connected.

We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel. In 2005, a fly-over by a vacationing President George W. Bush became a symbol of official neglect for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The current president was among those making political hay out of Bush’s aloofness.

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.

Like his predecessors, Obama has no doubt discovered that crises keep their own calendar, even when commanders-in-chief are trying to take some time off the clock. It’s an inconvenience of the presidency, but it’s what chief executives sign up for when they take the oath of office.

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.

It’s a familiar sight to Louisianians: flooring, furniture and drywall heaped next to street…

[…]

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.

While opinions may vary on the question of whether the president should have to fly to the site of every disaster that happens, as far as presidential statements are concerned, Obama is guilty of a gross double standard. Last month, for instance, in the wake of the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota, no one had to plead with Obama to make the incidents a priority.

If you remember, the armed and uncompliant Sterling was shot by police in Baton Rouge during a scuffle on July 5. He died the next day. Castile, a robbery suspect who was also armed, was fatally shot on July 6th during a traffic stop. Investigations of the two incidents are ongoing, but by July 7—only two days after Sterling died and one day after Castile was shot—the president had already put out a statement saying that he was “deeply troubled” by the shootings.

“We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss,” Obama posted on Facebook. That evening he spent over sixteen minutes in front of a microphone lecturing America about racial disparities in law enforcement.

“These are not isolated incidents,” he intoned. “They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.” He used the shooting incidents as an opportunity to push his radical police reform agenda: “That’s why, two years ago, I set up a Task Force on 21st Century Policing that convened police officers, community leaders, and activists. Together, they came up with detailed recommendations on how to improve community policing,” said the president on Facebook.

The epic deluge in Louisiana lasted from August 8-14 and tens of thousands of people have been impacted by the historic and ongoing floods. It is now August 18, and the president has still issued no public or written statements about the flooding.

But then, Obama does tend to be reticent when events don’t benefit him or his party politically. He could lecture us all day long about racial disparities in police practices, but if some journalist get his head chopped off by Islamists in the Middle East, or angry blacks go on an anti-white rampage in Milwaukee, or massive flooding kills 12 people and displaces tens of thousands more in the South, that presidential bully pulpit goes mute.