Certainly everyone’s heart has to go out to the people suffering from last week’s floods in Louisiana.
The devastation is truly stunning, and I hope you’ll join my family and other people of good will in sending donations to any one of the many worthy charities providing relief to the unfortunate folks in the area. After all, this is the sort of occasion which should bring all Americans together, right?
Well, as the eminent Professor Byrd used to solemnly intone to us at UNC Law School: “One might think that. But one would be wrong.”
As usual, there’s a noisy cadre of right-wingers who see a terrible tragedy and think, not “How can we help?” but “How can we blame this on President Obama?”
We saw it in the wake of the Benghazi murders, where Mitt Romney literally did not wait till the bodies were cold before he took to Twitter to politicize their deaths, and the right-wingers haven’t let up since.
And so it begins again, with the inevitable kvetching about, “Why did Obummer wait so long to go down there for his photo op? He was playing golf! … It’s Obama’s Katrina!”
Well, as for why the president waited till this past Tuesday to visit, it is very likely because the governor of the state, John Bel Edwards, asked him to.
“It is a major ordeal,” Edwards said. “They free up the Interstate for him. We have to take hundreds of local first responders, police officers, sheriffs, deputies and state troopers to provide security for that type of visit. I would just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the president. So I’d ask him to wait, if he would, another couple weeks.”
Donald Trump, of course, ignored this simple logic and made his visit last week, where he passed out a few packs of Play-Doh and vamoosed as soon as the cameras were off. Because if there’s one thing wet, thirsty, homeless people need, it’s some Play-Doh. You can squeeze it to take your mind off your troubles. You can use it to plug leaks. In a pinch, you can even eat it. Ask any kindergartner.
So what was the president doing? Merely signing the orders and making the declarations needed to mobilize the people who can actually do something besides look concerned for the cameras and pass out toys — which those people proceeded to do.
Let’s get one thing straight. The criticism of President Bush over the botched response to Hurricane Katrina had very little if anything to do with how long it took Dubbya to get to New Orleans. The criticism was due to failures that caused hundreds of needless deaths due to cronyism and incompetence.
The response to the Baton Rouge tragedy appears to be at least competent. Resources are getting where they need to go. We don’t have, for instance, a Navy hospital ship complete with rescue helicopters wandering around the Gulf, futilely waiting for orders, which happened after Katrina.
We don’t have FEMA turning back donated supplies of water, preventing the Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel, and telling doctors and nurses who volunteered to help the sick and injured at the New Orleans Airport to mop floors instead “while people died around them” (as later revealed by a CNN investigation).
Instead, as Layton Ricks, the president of Livingston Parish, told the “PBS Newshour,” “What I needed (the president) to do was declare the state of emergency. He did that. FEMA ramped up really fast. Under Gov. Edwards, along with (FEMA Administrator) Craig Fugate, they were helping us get the assets that we needed at that time.”
That’s what happens when a president appoints someone with nearly 30 years of emergency management experience to head FEMA, rather than a guy who’d previously ran a horse breeder’s club but who was a big fundraiser for Bush. Results are what the Baton Rouge area needed from this administration, and that’s what they’re getting.
Some people are so dedicated to the idea of excusing the failures of the President Who Must Not Be Named that every crisis has to become “Obama’s Katrina,” and the response to every terrible thing that happens anywhere in the world is not to sympathize with or to try to send aid to the victims, but to immediately go online to complain that the president played golf somewhere in the general time frame.
Don’t be like those people. If you’re able, grab your credit card or your checkbook.
Donate food or clothing. Volunteer, if you can. Check out the opportunities for all of that at http://volunteerlouisiana. gov. Do something to build up, not tear down, your fellow Americans.