The “we’re all in this together” spirit still permeates South Louisiana BUT there are a few cracks in the wall of solidarity. Is that a thing? I hope not but I just said it. I’ve been hearing some muttering on social media from people who neither like President Obama nor wish him well. I had a few choice words about this on ye olde tweeter tube yesterday:
There’s also been some grumbling about national press coverage of the Gret Stet Flood of 2016. I, too, would like to see more BUT in 2005, we got wall-to-wall cable, network, and print coverage and it didn’t make a difference. The most important thing is the flow of money and help. In 2005, FEMA was run by Heckuva Job Brownie who was the third disaster to strike the Gulf Coast. In 2016, it’s run by Craig Fugate and has not been subjected to the sort of criticism it received during the Bush Administration. In short, FEMA has been fixed. It’s now a professional organization like it was during the first Clinton administration. It’s what happens when a President who believes in government is in office.
Today the most banal criticism of all reared its damn fool head in an editorial in the Advocate demanding a Presidential visit:
Last week, as torrential rains brought death, destruction and misery to Louisiana, the president continued his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, a playground for the posh and well-connected.
We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel. 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.
Sometimes, presidential visits can get in the way of emergency response, doing more harm than good. But we don’t see that as a factor now that flood waters are subsiding, even if at an agonizing pace. It’s past time for the president to pay a personal visit, showing his solidarity with suffering Americans.
That’s still the case. Presidential visits complicate *everything* and interfere with relief efforts. If the Advocate editorial board deigned to read their own reporting, they would know that emergency response efforts are ongoing. This is all about an ultra conservative Obama hating editor seeing a chance to take a shot at him. The prime suspect is former Picayune and current Advocate editor Peter Kovacs who went on CNN to toot his own horn. On the behalf of Peters everywhere, I’d like to apologize for his malakatude.
The problem in 2005 was not insufficient Presidential visitation, it was the way the Bush administration played games with disaster relief. They did not want to take the blame for levee failures so they scapegoated then Gret Stet Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat. Karl Rove spearheaded that successful smear campaign, which helped to make Blanco a one-term Governor. That, in turn, made Congressional Republicans balk over disaster relief for Louisiana. The tone set by Bush and his minions was the problem. None of that is happening in 2016. The Feds are just getting revved up and I’m sure President Obama will visit when things settle down in the flood zone. That is not the case as I write this even if the Advocate editorial board thinks so. They’re flat-out wrong.
This is just speculation but there’s also the possibility that Governor John Bel Edwards does not want POTUS here at this point in time. He’s a Democrat who has maintained a polite political distance from President Obama. It’s partially up to him if and when the President visits the disaster zone. A trip at this point would be purely symbolic and symbolism is cheap; what matters is results. The jury is still out but it’s bound to be better than 2005.
The Advocate should be ashamed of itself for printing this editorial. We’re facing a different disaster with a different set of facts from 2005. The feds *caused* much of the damage in 2005, that is not the case in 2016. There’s another difference: the Bush administration did not take disaster relief or the role of government in it seriously. The Obama administration does.
Here’s the deal. The Advocate’s news reporters are doing great work covering the flood. It’s a pity that the editorial page chose to play games with disaster relief. Shame on Mr. Kovacs and whoever else worked on or approved the editorial. Disasters are non-political events and the response to them should be too.
Heckuva job, Advocate.
8/19 UPDATE: Governor John Bel Edwards was interviewed by Rachel Maddow last night. Here’s what he had to say about a Presidential visit at this point in time:
“It is a major ordeal, they free up the interstate for him,” Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday. “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,” Bel Edwards continued. “So I’d ask him to wait, if he would, another couple weeks.”
Repeat after me: Heckuva job, Advocate.