Donald Trump and Mike Pence Tour Louisiana Flood Damage Amid Criticism of President Obama's Decision to Remain on Vacation
The state's Democrat governor says he hopes the Republican candidates are there for more than a photo-op
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his vice presidential running mate Mike Pence visited Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday, where at least 12 people are dead and 40,000 homes damaged after historic flooding.
“Now that the flood waters ravaging Louisiana are receding, it’s time for President Barack Obama to visit the most anguished state in the union,” an editorial in The Advocate read.
“We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel,” it continued, comparing Obama’s action to those of former President George W. Bush – whose Air Force One fly-over of New Orleans in 2005 became “a symbol of official neglect for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, an ardent Trump supporter, agreed. “It is good Trump and Pence are going to Louisiana to help fellow Americans who are in pain,” he tweeted. “Sad that Obama can’t leave vacation for one day.”
By comparison, Obama visited New Jersey just two days the tri-state area was hit with Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The Red Cross has said the flooding in Louisiana is the United States’ worst natural disaster since Sandy.
While little is known about what Trump and Pence will do in Louisiana, they are expected to be out by early afternoon. Trump has a rally in Dimondale, Michigan, scheduled to begin around 5 p.m. ET, USA Today reports.
“I’d like to take a moment to talk about the heartbreak and devastation in Louisiana – a state that is very very special to me,” Trump said in a speech Thursday. “We are one nation. When one state hurts, we all hurt. And we must all work together to lift each other up. Working, building, restoring – together.”
“Our prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones and we send them our deepest condolences,” he continued. “The words can not express the sadness one feels at times like this. I hope everyone in Louisiana knows that our country is standing with them and praying for them in these difficult, difficult hours.”
While Obama has continued his trip – playing rounds golf with Larry David among others – the president has been receiving regular briefings about the devastation in Louisiana since the floods began and he approved a Major Disaster Declaration for affected parishes earlier this week.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who has been on-site, briefed the president Wednesday on resources that have been provided to support the response and recovery. “The President directed Administrator Fugate to utilize all resources available to assist in the response and recovery and asked to be regularly brief on the ongoing response, ” White House Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman said.
Friedman also said that more than 70,000 people have registered for individual assistance under the federal disaster declaration, and that over 9,000 have filed flood insurance claims so far.
RELATED VIDEO: Over 20,000 People Rescued After Unprecedented Flooding in Louisiana
For what it’s worth, Lousiana Governor John Bel Edwards says that now is not the best time for Obama to visit the floods.
In a press conference on Thursday reported on by The Times-Picayune, he defended the president, saying a visit could cause additional problems for flood recovery efforts.
Edwards explained Obama’s motorcade would require many roadways to be shut down, putting an additional strain on law enforcement and first responders – who are still on search and rescue missions.
Edwards later warned Trump against making his Louisiana visit political play, Politico reports.
“Donald Trump hasn’t called the governor to inform him of his visit,” a spokesman for Edwards’ office said in a statement to the site Thursday evening. “We welcome him to LA but not for a photo-op. Instead we hope he’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of the storm.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also hasn’t made a visit to flood scenes. “Closely monitoring the flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi,” she tweeted. “The @RedCross is helping displaced families in need,” she added, with a link to the Red Cross’ site.