A drought that has spread its misery over more than half the nation, decimating crops and driving up food prices, has failed to attract the public presence of President Obama, who has not visited a drought-stricken area to show his support even as he has traveled widely for his own political benefit.
Though the plague of drought has been spreading for months, Obama’s public involvement has been nonexistent.
Obama has not spoken to the public about the matter. A search of the White House website turns up only a single mention of the word “drought” – from a briefing aboard Air Force One Tuesday by an Obama spokesman who said the president had had a “conversation” with someone about the topic.
Obama today will publicly address the drought for the first time, staging a photo op with his Secretary of Agriculture at the White House. The two men will meet and presumably make statements to the press.
But out in the hinterland, where massive suffering continues, there’s been no sign of the president.
Obama this week has already twice been to the Midwest – ground zero for the drought – collecting money at two fundraisers Monday in Cincinnati and four Tuesday in Texas.
Ironically, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week, in seeking to emphasize that the president is actively involved with his job, claimed that campaign events are sometimes cancelled when presidential duty calls:
There will be times, I’m sure, when a planned stop on a campaign — for a campaign event has to be delayed or postponed or cancelled because of some pressing business of the presidency. And that’s just how it is.
But not for the drought.
The failure to pay sustained attention to the drought is also a political mistake by the president. Food prices may soar before the election, adding a new source of hardship to a nation already gripped by eight percent unemployment and a stumbling economy.