Presidential Visits to a Disaster Site – Useful?

U.S. President George W. Bush and Nagin meet t...

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 on Sept. 4th.

Dems Continue to Hammer at Republicans’ Proposed Cuts to Disaster Funding

The red "GOP" logo used by the party...

You have to admit that when the week of the GOP convention is also the week of  H. Isaac, with its uncanny resemblance to H. Katrina, it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss positions on disaster aid and relief.  The Huff Post notes: GOP Convention Under Storm Threat Creates Opening For Democrats On Disaster Relief Cuts;8/27/2012

A new online ad campaign launched Monday targets Republicans for proposed cuts to disaster relief funding and weather monitoring systems. The ads, launched by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, coincided with Tropical Storm Isaac’s pass over the southwest of the state, where it caused widespread power outages and forced the GOP to cancel the first day of the Republican National Convention.

As of Monday morning, the storm had moved back over the Gulf of Mexico, where meteorologists expect it to build strength before slamming into the Gulf Coast on Tuesday night as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm is currently headed straight for New Orleans, where it’s expected to reach land on or before Wednesday, seven years to the day afer Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city.

The ad, which will appear on hundreds of thousands of computer screens across the state, features images of Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), flanked by …Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Republicans voted against disaster relief,” it reads. “Thank them here.” A click-through web page cites Ryan’s budget, which the ad says would have “cut billions from disaster relief funding.”

Some additional details about the positions of the two parties are in this HuffPost article today.

Do voters punish politicians for natural disasters?

See the article Do voters punish politicians for natural disasters? for a discussion of a long-debated topic.
Washington Post, July 28, 2012. Actually, the last paragraph says it all:

So, to sum up the relevant advice for any incumbent politician trying to win reelection: Natural disasters can cost votes, but a competent disaster-relief effort will usually help with voters. There’s no electoral upside to making preparations beforehand for a disaster. And better hope the local football team does well in late October.

Bibilography on the Politics of Natural Disasters


From. Prof. Dan Aldrich, here is a copy of his new bibliography (31 pp.) on the Politics of Natural Disasters. Aldrich is with Purdue University.

Sections include general overviews, centers and data sources, comparative approach, case studies of individual disasters, recovery, natural, man-made, and natural/technological disasters, mitigation, preparation, and insurance, ulnerabilities, evacuation, emergent groups, disaster myths and behavior, humanitarian response, governance during and after, social capital in disaster recovery, political outcomes, political and economic impact, temporary housing, and resilience.


Please patronize our sponsor, the Disaster Bookstore.

Science and Politics — sand berms off LA coast

Progress on Louisiana Sand Berm

Image by lagohsep via Flickr

Once again in LA we see an example of the conflict between objective science and state level politics. Louisiana Builds Barriers Even as Oil Disperses, NYTimes, Oct. 22.

In late May, at the height of the spill, Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard did authorize the berms as an oil-spill countermeasure and directed BP to pay for them. But since then, the Coast Guard and the unified command, charged with responding to the oil spill under federal law, have had virtually no oversight or involvement in the project.

Rather, the state is proceeding with the permission of the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates offshore engineering projects yet has little oil-spill expertise.

But as the dredging and construction press on, opposition from federal agencies and environmental groups is growing.

Some conservation groups and scientists assert that the project has not only been ineffective but could also threaten wildlife. They warn that the intensive dredging associated with the berms has already killed at least a half-dozen endangered sea turtles and could kill many more.

They have also repeatedly raised concern that further dredging may squander limited sand resources needed for future coastal restoration projects.

Thanks to Bill Cumming for pointing this out.