Critics say Obama should cut short his vacation to visit flood-ravaged Louisiana
President Obama is facing a backlash for continuing his annual Martha’s Vineyard vacation as widespread flooding has damaged tens of thousands of homes and killed at least 13 people in Louisiana.
A newspaper in the state editorialized that Obama ought to cut his vacation short to visit “the most anguished state in the union” and show “his solidarity with suffering Americans.”
“We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel,” the Advocate wrote Wednesday. “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.”
Obama has received regular briefings on the flooding, declared the region a federal disaster area earlier in the week, and dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to the region.
But conservative voices juxtaposed pictures of the floodwaters with images of Obama golfing on Thursday. A Fox News headline read, “Bias alert: Media that ripped Bush on Katrina ignores Obama on La. flooding.”
Some residents also said they would appreciate a presidential visit.
“It would be great if he could come, give us moral support,” said Mary Green King, as she rested at a shelter south of Baton Rouge in flood-ravaged Ascension Parish. “He’s been to disaster areas.”
King, 67, had just been informed by her landlord that she had 48 hours to move her belongings from her home in the bedroom community of Gonzalez. But when Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy visited the shelter with some aides, King shared her problems with them and felt encouraged.
“He said they would see what they can do,” she said from her cot in the shelter that’s still housing 524 people.
Louisiana’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, has said that a visit by Obama soon after the disaster would divert resources needed in relief efforts, and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a frequent Obama administration critic, has repeatedly praised the federal response to the flooding.
“The president issued a disaster declaration and indicated to Gov. Edwards that his administration will continue to stay in close touch with local officials and mobilize federal resources, and has asked his team to make sure all available federal resources are being utilized to assist in the response and recovery effort,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump plans to visit the state Friday, and opened his Thursday evening rally by talking about the flooding.
“Our prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones, and we send them our deepest condolences,” he told supporters in Charlotte, N.C. “Though words cannot express the sadness one feels at times like this, I hope everyone in Louisiana knows that our country is praying for them and standing with them to help them in these difficult hours.”
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Mehta reported from Los Angeles and Hennessy-Fiske from Baton Rouge. Christi Parsons in Washington contributed to this report.
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