‘Thank you for coming!’: Trump consoles Louisiana flood victims

By Bob Unruh

The recent historic rains that have submerged large sections of Louisiana were captured on a satellite video loop showing one storm after the other over the region, where up two feet of rain fell in just a couple of days.

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Now the disaster is taking over not just the weather and news reports but also politics, with a Louisiana newspaper criticizing President Obama for continuing his golf vacation in swanky Martha’s Vineyard amid what the Red Cross has described as the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Gov. Mike Pence went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday to meet with victims of the flooding.

“I hope everyone in Louisiana knows that our country is praying for them, and standing with them to help them in these difficult hours,” Trump said at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.

Trump and Pence were seen chatting on the tarmac with the highest-ranking Republicans in the state, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Attorney General Jeff Landry, after their plane touched down in Baton Rouge.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said Trump was welcome to visit but that he would not be meeting with him.

“We welcome him to LA, but not for a photo-op,” said his spokesman Richard Carbo in a statement. “Instead we hope he’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm. ”

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Flood victims, sorting through their belongings and working on their homes, waved to Trump’s motorcade as it made its way through devastated neighborhoods.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Trump,” one woman screamed.

“We knew you would be here for us!” another shouted.

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The candidates later visited Greenwell Springs Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, where volunteers were preparing meals for the needy.

“The president says he doesn’t want to come, he is trying to get out of a golf game,” said Trump.

“I heard he wants to stay under par while we are under water,” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council and Trump supporter, who was in attendance.

“He will never be under par.” quipped Trump.

Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said he and Pence would be “going to help people on the ground who are in need.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is taking a break from the campaign trail on Friday and isn’t expected to make another public appearance until Sunday, when she will attend a fundraiser with singer and actress Cher.

After Trump had already arrived in Louisiana, Clinton released a statement saying she had “just got off the phone” with the governor and that visiting the state would be a “distraction” from flood-relief efforts.

“The flooding there is bigger than anyone expected—more than 40,000 homes have been damaged and more than 100,000 people have been affected,” Clinton wrote on her Facebook page. “My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions. The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need.”

On Thursday, Clinton addressed the Louisiana flooding in a two sentence tweet:

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More than a dozen people are dead in Louisiana, at least 40,000 houses have been ruined and some 82,000 people have been forced from their homes.

Trump canceled an event in New York on Friday to visit Louisiana, after the White House said Obama would not break away from a New England vacation to survey the damage, despite calls for him to visit and meet with responders and victims.

Edwards said he encouraged Obama to hold off visiting because it would pull police and first responders away from rescue efforts to provide security for the president.

“Like his predecessors, Obama has no doubt discovered that crises keep their own calendar, even when commanders-in-chief are trying to take some time off the clock,” the Baton Rouge paper said Wednesday.

“It’s an inconvenience of the presidency, but it’s what chief executives sign up for when they take the oath of office,” the paper continued. “And if the president can interrupt his vacation for a swanky fundraiser for fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, as he did on Monday, then surely he can make time to show up for a catastrophe that’s displaced thousands.”

The editorial said the “optics of Obama golfing while Louisiana residents languished in flood waters was striking.”

“It evoked the precedent of the passive federal response to the state’s agony in 2005, a chapter of history no one should ever repeat.”

At that time, then-Sen. Obama chastised then-President George W. Bush for not responding faster and more aggressively to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the same state.

See Obama’ comments in 2005:

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Obama, on the Senate floor, said: “We can talk about what happened for two days in 2005 and we should. We can talk about levees that couldn’t hold, a FEMA that seemed not just incompetent but paralyzed and powerless, about a president who only saw the people from the window of an airplane instead of down here on the ground.”

The Advocate on Wednesday called on Obama to “pay a personal visit.”

It commended him for acting “prudently in officially declaring a disaster for the flooded part of the state, a key step in advancing federal aid.”

“We’ve been heartened so far by the active involvement of Craig Fugate, head of Federal Emergency Management Agency, a far cry from FEMA’s hapless Michael Brown in the days after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was slated to visit Louisiana today to assess the damage,” the paper said.

“But a disaster this big begs for the personal presence of the president at ground zero. In coming here, the president can decisively demonstrate that Louisiana’s recovery is a priority for his administration – and the United States of America.

“He should pack his bags now, and pay a call on communities who need to know that in a national catastrophe, they are not alone.”

The Washington Post noted that five days after the rains and flooding hit, thousands still are living with friends, in shelters or in campers.

“We still don’t know the state of our house,” Justin Sylvest, 21, who lives with his girlfriend and their 11-month-old in Denham Springs, told the newspaper.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed at least 40,000 homes have been damaged and 13 have died.

Roads, schools, businesses and governments all remain closed.

The American Red Cross said the nation has not seen a natural disaster this bad since 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.

One week before the general election in 2012, Hurricane Sandy pummeled New Jersey. And Obama acted quickly to address the disaster, a move that boosted his approval ratings just before his re-election.

This time around, Brad Kieserman, a Red Cross official, said his organization is “mounting a massive relief operation, which we anticipate will cost at least $30 million and that number may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation.”

At Conservative Review, Robert Eno questioned the president’s inaction on another major incident as well.

“For Obama it isn’t just the flooding in Louisiana that he is not leading on, it is also the warzone that Milwaukee has become over the last 72 hours. There have been multiple reports that instead of taking action, Obama spent the weekend, once again, golfing.”

In Milwaukee, a police officer’s shooting of a man who reportedly was pointing a gun at him prompted two days of rioting.

Eno speculated: “The response of the people of Baton Rouge and Lafayette, with neighbor helping neighbor, doesn’t fit into the main stream media narrative of a nation on the brink suffering from racial tensions. … Wait, maybe that’s why Obama has been silent.”

The Washington Examiner pointed out that “Obama hasn’t broken from his long vacation to even make a flyover to the flooded state.

“On Thursday, the White House media pool reported that the president went golfing again.”

The Christian Post reported on the struggle of one of Washington’s top Christian leaders, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, against the flood.

Perkins, who has a home in the flood zone, confirmed he had his family has to escape by canoe.

“We had about 10 feet of water at the end of our driveway. Our house flooded, a few of our cars flooded.”

He continued: “There is hardly a place you could turn where someone has not been affected by this. I mean, I am talking about people who have lost absolutely everything, the majority of which didn’t have flood insurance because they just didn’t need it because this has never happened before.”

 

 

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