Recently, the nation’s attention has been captivated by the devastating flooding that wreaked havoc in Louisiana. Its impact on the state’s homeowners and communities has been enormous. Thousands of people have lost everything and these victims and their local governments cried out for help. Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross’s Vice-President of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics has claimed, “This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy and (the losses) may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation.” The situation grew so dire that Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for all of Louisiana on August 12th. It wasn’t till more than a week later, on August 23rd, that Air Force One finally touched down in Louisiana.
When disaster strikes, we look to our leaders; yet through most of this crisis, support from Washington lacked a key player. As aforementioned, nearly ten days passed before the President set foot in the distressed, flood ravished street of Louisiana. For over a week as floodwaters ravaged Baton Rouge, President Obama relaxed on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard with his family. He played golf on luxury courses while over 60,000 homes were being demolished, and total losses climbed into upwards of $30 million dollars 1600 miles away.
Now granted, President Obama is a busy man. As one of the most powerful leaders in the free world, he is constantly being bombarded with issues for which he is responsible. It is almost impossible to imagine that a person with that level of responsibility would have any free time at all. For that reason, Obama’s vacationing in the beginning of August while Louisiana was being pounded by rain and floods leaves many of us questioning one of two things: the role of the Presidency or Obama’s commitment to it. As citizens of the United States, we expect our President to be the face of help when disaster strikes; a majority of our country felt as though Barack Obama could handle this pressure and that as the President, he would do everything in his power to serve his people. In this case however, he hasn’t served anyone but himself; he has neglected his duty in the final moments of his presidency and demonstrated his disregard for title and responsibility of President of the United States.
Back in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush faced similar criticism after flying over flooded New Orleans on his jet instead of landing and showing solidarity with the city. Back in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, President Bush was torn to shreds by the media as they called it the beginning of the end for the President at the time. Some people, like Hip Hop artist Kanye West, went as far as to say that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Where is Kanye now? Why is there this silence and lack of criticism towards President Obama? Much of the media not only criticized George Bush for the federal response to Katrina, but they also criticized him for not coming back from vacation sooner. One USA Today article stated that “President Bush has shown that he can be empathetic, sensitive and decisive. But those qualities eluded him for days after Hurricane Katrina, and the lapse could become a defining moment of his White House tenure,” the article said. So why is it that this firestorm of criticism can come down on George Bush after two days while President Obama can go eleven days and the media doesn’t lose any sleep on it?
Granted, Obama’s delayed arrival did allow for resources to be allocated towards rescue efforts and not wasted on logistical implications of preparing for his visit. However, to stay on an extended vacation, provided for by taxpayer’s dollars, rather than return to Washington D.C. in the midst of a national crisis comparable to Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina shows a frightening lack of compassion and commitment to his role.
To top it off, the fact that the administration’s press secretary had to vehemently defend President Obama’s actions speaks volumes. GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, the President’s biggest critic currently, was outraged by the situation. “President Obama should have gone to Louisiana days ago,” said Trump. “It’s too little, too late.”
For President Obama, this marks the latest in a string of incidents spanning years in which he could be found somewhere extravagant with his family and friends in the midst of world issues that needed immediate attention, seemingly disconnected and uninterested.
— Matthew Jordan is a Junior studying Finance
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