President Barack Obama finally came to Baton Rouge last week, prodded by this newspaper and other, mainly Republican, critics. Meanwhile, Louisiana's elected Democrats did their best to cover for his hypocrisy on presidential crisis visits.
Regarding what relief agencies describe as the largest American disaster since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast nearly four years ago, at its start Obama authorized relief but didn’t shorten his vacation to toney Martha’s Vineyard in order personally to assess the situation. Obama’s reluctance prompted a call-out from The Advocate on its editorial page, joined by many others, for him to visit Baton Rouge. Eventually he assented and appeared almost two weeks after the waters began invading structures and washing out infrastructure.
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Apparently, flooding of such severity believed typically to occur every thousand years did not give Obama a sufficient chance to advance his ideological or electoral agenda. Just as April showers bring May flowers, so do mass shootings attract Obama, as during his terms in office nine times he quickly visited locations of such tragic events and the families of victims — although not last summer’s unfortunate killings in a Lafayette theater that occurred while he traveled to Africa. At these gatherings, he demanded more gun control, although nothing short of disregarding the Second Amendment and turning the country into a police state might have prevented any of these lamentable occurrences.
Obama had graced Baton Rouge with his presence earlier this year — when he came to celebrate Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ unwise order to implement Obama’s signature expansion of Medicaid. But it proved too much for him to help the city heal by coming soon after last month’s unfortunate Alton Sterling shooting by police and the subsequent retaliatory assassinations of three officers.
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Regarding water-caused natural disasters, shortly after Hurricane Sandy struck Obama managed to survey from above the damage. Broadcast media for several hours portrayed him acting presidentially, viewed by voters there and in swing states.
But Obama is not on this fall’s ballot; Louisiana will vote overwhelmingly Republican; and, since floods don’t lend themselves for use as ideological tools, when the waters rose Obama couldn’t be bothered to sacrifice even one of the nine rounds of golf he played among the well-off in order to commiserate with the less fortunate. In the process Obama hung out Edwards to dry, leaving the state’s most prominent flood victim to mumble about what stellar attention Obama’s underlings paid to rescue and recovery matters and how a presidential drive-by would be too distracting.
One such underling, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, during his own trip to Baton Rouge noted Obama had “a very busy schedule;” after all, Obama paused during his vacation to headline a fundraiser for Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — the day after the disaster declaration. New Orleans Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, running for reelection, didn’t mind Obama’s absence for this or any reason, declaring “the federal government has our back.”
As laughable as such excuses might be, at least they don’t display Obama’s own hypocrisy. As a candidate eight years ago, Obama criticized his predecessor, former George W. Bush, who traveled to the Gulf Coast five days after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 with rescues ongoing, as “a president who only saw the people from the window of an airplane instead of down here on the ground trying to provide comfort and aid.”
Thanks for stopping in, Mr. President, even if we can’t serve as a prop for your agenda.
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport, where he teaches Louisiana Government. He is author of a blog about Louisiana politics at http://www.between-lines.com, where links to information in this column may be found. When the Louisiana Legislature is in session, he writes about legislation in it at http://www.laleglog.com. Follow him on Twitter @jsadowadvocate. Write to him at email@example.com. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer.