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Tag Archives: Hurricane Irene

Obama Strikes the Right Notes on Irene

President Obama appears to be exercising leadership on Hurricane Irene, making sure the proper authorities have their butts in gear and cutting his vacation short, a decision that allows him both to oversee the response and appear presidential.

According to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, Obama conducted conference calls today and yesterday with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

Such calls are more than symbolic. They let senior agency officials know that the president is watching and they will be held accountable for their actions. Presidential involvement in any exercise gets agencies in gear, from the top all the way down.

Obama also conducted a call with governors and mayors from areas that will be affected by Irene. This gets lines of communication open to help coordinate a federal and local response, and it sets expectations on all sides about what is going to be done.

While presidential aides – no matter who is president – like to pretend to reporters that the boss can do everything on the road he can do at the White House, nothing beats the Situation Room for coordinating a crisis response. Obama is doing the right thing by leaving his vacation a day early. And he will save himself some nasty political fallout and feverish criticism from people like me.

By returning with him, Mrs. Obama also avoided the disgraceful sight of her continuing to vacation while the storm raged and taking a separate, costly flight home at taxpayers’ expense.

She had initially decided to stay. I pity whoever had to tell her she couldn’t.

If either the president or Reggie Love has a black eye or appears woozy next time they appear in public, you’ll know why.

Obama Returning Early to DC; Michelle Opts to Join Him

updated at 2:40 pm ET

President Obama is leaving Martha’s Vineyard today instead of Saturday, undoubtedly hoping to avoid reports that he is lounging on vacation while Hurricane Irene barrels into North Carolina.

Mrs. Obama appears to have initially decided to finish out the vacation, according to reports, staying with the couple’s daughters until Saturday at a cost of thousands to taxpayers.

But after saying today the first lady would return Saturday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest later said she and the family would join the president. I can only think the president’s political advisers intervened directly to avoid a public relations nightmare.

The first lady also traveled to Martha’s Vineyard a few hours ahead of the president a week ago Thursday, a separate trip that added to the taxpayers’ tab for the trip.

Bringing Mrs. Obama home a day later would have forced the Secret Service to continue to provide security on Martha’s Vineyard even though the president would be back in Washington. And Mrs. Obama would have again billed the Air Force for a separate, specially equipped jet to take her home.

The Obamas will get most of today to play – they are not scheduled to return to Washington until Midnight.

Obama’s decision to get home early has both political and practical elements to it.

The hurricane is already causing rain in North Carolina and is expected to begin having its worst effects on the state Friday night. So the president would have been relaxing at one of the country’s most exclusive vacation destinations while thousands of Americans were beginning to suffer and possibly die.

Obama’s presence in Washington will also allow him to oversee the response in a more effective manner than were he at Martha’s Vineyard, given the enhanced communications tools available to him at the White House.

It must also have occurred to Obama’s political advisers that North Carolina is a key presidential swing state, so crucial to Obama’s reelection chances that the Democratic Party has decided to hold it’s convention in Charlotte.

Fresh in the minds of White House and campaign officials is also Hurricane Katrina, which almost exactly six years ago caused the tragic disaster in New Orleans while George W. Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush’s failure to respond speedily proved a political disaster from which he was never able to fully recover.

Obama to Speak on Hurricane Irene

He’ll appear at 11:30 am Obama Standard Time, which is anywhere from five minutes to an hour later than the actual time zone where President Obama is at the moment.

We’ll live stream it here.

UPDATE:  Apologies, but I was unable to get video on the website of Obama’s statement, which actually started on time. Obama made a short statement, emphasizing the seriousness of the storm and the need to prepare.