President Barack Obama has come under fire for declining to cut his summer vacation short to travel to flood-ravaged Louisiana, but the state’s governor said a presidential visit at this time would only cause more headaches for officials.
“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.”
Historic floods in the Bayou State have killed at least 13 people and prompted mass evacuations, leaving at least 40,000 homes damaged. Though Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate have toured the flood damage and coordinated the federal government’s response, critics have blamed Obama for finishing out his two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard rather than traveling to Louisiana himself.
The editorial board of The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s newspaper, compared Obama’s response to that of President George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina. Bush was also on vacation when the hurricane struck, though much of the criticism his administration received was a response to the woefully unprepared response of FEMA at the time.
“A disaster this big begs for the personal presence of the president at ground zero,” the editorial board wrote.
Newt Gingrich called it “sad” that Obama wouldn’t curtail his vacation to visit Louisiana, while Fox News accused the media of a double standard for failing to criticize Obama the way they skewered Bush in 2005.
Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) canceled a planned event in New York on Friday with plans to tour the flood damage in Baton Rouge instead, the Associated Press reported.
Bel Edwards’ spokesman, Richard Carbo, told the AP that Trump was welcome in Louisiana, “but not for a photo-op.”