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Tag Archives: tornadoes

Obama Mourns Lawmaker but Not Tornado Victims

President Obama today stopped himself as he was about to leave the podium to end his press conference and returned to the microphone to express condolences to the family of “a friend of mine,” Rep. Donald Payne, (D-N.J.), whose death was announced today following a bout with cancer.

But there was nothing in Obama’s press conference about some 40 of his countrymen who died from a plague of tornadoes that roared across the middle of the country late last week.

As far as I can tell, Obama, though he called the governors of the affected states, has said nothing at all publicly about the tragedy, in which many were maimed as well as killed, towns eradicated, and lives ruined. Not even a written statement has been released.

And yet the president took a moment to remember a single Congressman he happened to know who died at the age of 77, after earlier releasing a written statement about Payne’s death. It’s sad, but it doesn’t campare to the tragedy surrounding the storms.

Obama’s tribute for Payne and not for the storm victims isn’t consistent with the image the president seeks to cultivate for himself as someone who cares about the average citizen over and above the elite.

Michelle Obama, to her credit, mentioned the storms at fundraising stops in Missouri Monday, offering prayers for those affected “on behalf of myself and my husband.” But that only underscores that even the White House understood that it was appropriate for something to be said, and there is no reason the president can’t do so by himself instead of through his wife.

Yesterday I wrote that Obama had taken time to call a Georgetown University Law student who had been insulted by Rush Limbaugh while waiting until Saturday to speak with three of the governors of the affected state. It was pointed out to me that he had actually called six governors Thursday, and so I decided my original story that he hadn’t devoted time to the tragedy was unfair.

The president expressed condolences through the governors. But the president is, as our nation’s leader, expected to use the bully pulpit to comfort the bereaved and the injured and express the nation’s sorrow. His utter silence is incomprensible to me, and an insult to the victims.

This is not the first time Obama has insufficiently addressed tragedy. He was criticized for being slow in his response to the BP oil spill.

Obama should make a statement in person about the tornadoes, and then go to the area and help the healing process by witnessing some of the damage.

Obama Called Fluke but Said Nothing to Tornado Victims

UPDATE – 12:43 pm ET

To my readers:

I have regrettably decided to take this piece down.

The original report said that Obama did not make any phone calls or statements until Saturday regarding the tornado disasters that swept the Midwest Thursday and Friday, when he made three calls to the governors of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

It turns out that I missed a pool report stating that he had called six governors on Thursday, conveying support and expressing condolences.

It is still true that Obama said nothing about the tornadoes on Friday while taking time to phone Georgetown law student and reproductive right activists Sandra Fluke, who had been insulted by Rush Limbaugh. The call was a politically motivated move amounting to an attempt to steer controversy over the Obamacare birth control coverage mandate away from a discussion damaging to the president about forcing leaders of religious institutions to violate their conscience, and instead toward a battle over women’s health rights.

I  believe he should have done more Friday, and probably made a statement himself. The president failed to exercise leadership by at least putting out a statement to the public expressing support for the victims. But I think making a total of nine calls, and most of them as the disaster was happening, undermines the premise of the article, which was that he made little effort to reach out to victims and instead attended to his political business.

My goal with White House Dossier as always is to provide you with real White House accountability that you do not find elsewhere. After much thought, I felt the article could not longer be said to provide accountability, since he had taken the time to involve himself in supporting those incurring the disaster.

I apologize for the mistake.

Keith

Obama Speaks in London About Midwest Tornadoes

President Obama continued to step up his leadership on the tornado disasters in Missouri and other parts of the Midwest, taking time out as he started his day in London to talk about the calamities and scheduling a trip to Missouri Sunday. Here’s part of what he said.

Before the day starts here in England I wanted to say a few words about the devastating storms that we’ve seen in Missouri and Minnesota and across the Midwest.

Like all Americans, we have been monitoring what’s been taking place very closely and have been heartbroken by the images that we’ve seen in Joplin, Missouri, in particular.  The devastation is comparable and may end up exceeding some of the devastation that we saw in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just a few weeks ago.

So far we know that over 100 people lost their lives . . .

I know that a lot of people are wondering how they’ll get through the coming days or months or even years, but I want everybody in Joplin, everybody in Missouri, everybody in Minnesota, everybody across the Midwest to know that we are here for you.  The American people are by your side.  We’re going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet.  That’s my commitment, and that’s the American people’s commitment.

Obama’s comments and actions, following on his slow or weak response to earlier disasters, shows that he and his aides have grasped the importance of a president’s involvement on behalf of the American people when such horrific natural disasters destroy lives. Since we deal with the real world around here, I’d also mention that it brings political benefits – and avoids political damage – something Team Obama surely also has come to understand.

For these good reasons, it looks like golf is canceled for Sunday.

Obama Shows Leadership on Missouri Tornado Disaster

The White House, have been justly burned multiple times for President Obama’s slow responses to natural disasters – starting with the Gulf Oil spill – is making sure to let us know that President Obama is on top of the horrific toll exacted by a tornado that roared through Joplin, Missouri Sunday. Dozens are reported dead.

It’s good to see the president starting to lead more aggressively when natural disasters hit. A week ago he visited with victims of flooding from the Mississippi river and last month stopped in Alabama to meet with tornado victims. This after being late or AWOL on several earlier disasters.

A White House spokesman gave reporters traveling in Ireland with the president these statements:

The President received multiple updates on the tornado damage throughout the course of the flight. He instructed his staff to keep him updated and to stay closely coordinated with state and local officials going forward . . .

The President called Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to personally extend his condolences and to tell all of the families of Joplin affected by the severe tornadoes that they are in his thoughts and prayers. The President assured the governor that FEMA will remain in close contact and coordination with state and local officials.

The President has directed FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to travel to Missouri to ensure the state has all the support it needs. In addition, in anticipation of requests for assistance, a FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) is en route to Joplin.

The Federal government will continue to support our fellow Americans during this difficult time.

Obama Offers Condolences to Tornado Victims

Thank you for taking a moment to be president.

After saying nearly nothing about the tornadoes last week in North Carolina and elsewhere that killed nearly four dozen people – and failing to travel to the region – President Obama released a statement tonight lamenting the loss of life in the latest phalanx of twisters to rip through the South.

At least 200 people are known dead as of this writing and the damage is brutally extensive. So Obama offered some sympathy.

Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives because of the tornadoes that have swept through Alabama and the southeastern United States. Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by this devastation, and we commend the heroic efforts of those who have been working tirelessly to respond to this disaster. I just spoke to Governor Bentley and told him that I have ordered the Federal Government to move quickly in our response and informed him that I approved his request for emergency Federal assistance, including search and rescue assets. While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms.

Well, your deepest condolences are wonderful, but if you can get out to Chicago to appear with Oprah, you can surely find some time to get down South and put your presidential arm around these suffering people on behalf of the rest of us.

Obama Skips Tornado Destruction, Heads West to Raise Money

President Obama is opting not to visit the tornado-ravaged areas of the South, choosing instead to embark today on a three day tour out West where he will try to boost his political standing by talking up his approach to the deficit and raise millions for himself and fellow Democrats.

The tornadoes, part of a storm that rampaged though six states Saturday, resulted in one of the worst disasters of any kind in the United States since the Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Scores were left injured or homeless while 45 people were killed – about four times as many as died in the Gulf oil rig explosion and the subsequent oil spill last year. In North Carolina alone, there were nearly two-dozen storm-related deaths Saturday, with 130 homes destroyed and an estimated 700 more damaged.

Obama presents the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team in the Rose Garden Monday. He made no mention of the tornadoes.
photo by Keith Koffler

Not only is Obama staying away from the region, he has said almost nothing publicly about the tragedy beyond an interview with a North Carolina TV station and a very brief mention at a White House prayer breakfast. The president has failed to make the kind of national, attention-getting public statement presidents offer during crises to comfort victims by expressing the condolences of the nation and to seek charitable aid.

Sunday, he went golfing. On Monday, he did sign a disaster declaration for North Carolina, which will free up federal assistance to the state.

Vice President Biden has also failed to show up. He’s cooling his heels today at home in Wilmington, Delaware. The disaster did not even merit a visit from Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar who – without any apparent irony – was in Boston Tuesday announcing a new wind energy project.

Meanwhile, the South is bracing for more, as forecasters say severe storms and tornadoes could hit the region again today.

Obama’s failure to publicly attend to the fallout from the tornadoes comes on the one-year anniversary of the rig explosion that caused the Gulf oil spill. Obama was roundly criticized then for failing to respond sufficiently to the crisis.

The president’s silence and absence during the current crisis is particularly odd given his political stakes in North Carolina, which barely went for Obama over McCain in 2008. Obama is so desperate to hold the state that he’s chosen to hold the 2012 Democratic convention there, in Charlotte.

Obama’s first stop out West will be in San Francisco today, where he will stage two fundraisers and host a “town hall” style meeting at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto focusing on his solution for the federal deficit. On Thursday, he’ll hopscotch over to Reno, Nevada – also a key presidential battleground state – for another deficit town hall, and then head back to California to rake in more money.

While the fundraisers are obviously political events, Obama’s public sales job for his deficit plan also has a major political component, given the widespread public concern about the economy is behind his perilously low poll ratings.