Presidential Visits to a Disaster Site – Useful?
From MyWay, Dept. 3, Another disaster brings candidates to Gulf Coast. In the wake of the visit of both a presidential candidate and a president visiting in LA after H. Isaac, locals question the value of such visits.
Mitt Romney wasted no time after accepting the GOP presidential nomination in heading to Louisiana to see the damage from Hurricane Isaac, changing his schedule on the fly to get there the very next day. President Barack Obama also tweaked his travel plans to make sure he gets there Monday, ahead of his own nominating convention.
This for a Category 1 storm that killed seven and swamped low-lying areas of Louisiana and dumped more than a foot of rain on its way north – a disaster, to be sure, but one that will never rival the biggest to hit the Gulf Coast. In a region with a storied culture and a history of human suffering, natural and manmade catastrophes, and struggles with government ineptitude and indifference, it’s just another turn in front of the cameras as the perfect political backdrop.
Call it the Katrina effect: Presidents, and would-be presidents, can’t afford to get panned like George W. Bush did in the days after Hurricane Katrina crippled New Orleans and the Mississippi and Alabama coasts in 2005, killing more than 1,800.
“We just want our lights on,” said Eddie Cooley, a 56-year-old chemical warehouse worker drenched in sweat as he worked on his truck’s engine in the Lower 9th Ward, the New Orleans neighborhood flooded to rooftops during Katrina. Over the weekend, parts of the neighborhood remained without electricity, days after Isaac passed.
“We don’t care who gets elected and who doesn’t,” Cooley said. “We just want power.” For Cooley, the 9th Ward resident, the benefit of having a Romney or an Obama see the problems in person remains as dubious as it was in Roosevelt’s day.
“What are both of them going to do? Come down here and look?” he said. “I need lights. I don’t need a president.”
The same question can be asked regarding the FEMA Director. Is is essential that he ( or she) visit a newly declared disaster site? What are your views?
One advantage to having a disaster during the two major national political conventions is that the topic of emergency management suddenly becomes part of the debate between the two parties. See this article in NOLA.com on Sept. 4th.