President Obama is scheduled to visit Baton Rouge, Louisiana next week, the White House announced Friday afternoon.
Following his return from the first family’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard this week, the president will tour flood-damaged areas in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Mr. Obama’s team, along with Louisiana officials, determined that date would be an “appropriate” time for him to visit, according to a White House press statement.
“The President is mindful of the impact that his travel has on first responders and wants to ensure that his presence does not interfere with ongoing recovery efforts,” the statement read. “He is also eager to get a first-hand look at the impact of the devastating floods, hear from more officials about the response, including how the federal government can assist and tell the people of Louisiana that the American people will be with them as they rebuild their community and come back stronger than ever.”
Mr. Obama drew criticism this week, as some called on him to cancel or take time out of his two-week vacation to travel to Louisiana.
“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 Advocate, Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper, wrote in a scathing editorial Thursday. The outlet noted the region’s history as one of the area’s that suffered most when Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana shore, slamming the president’s response to the latest deadly floods as having “evoked the precedent of the passive federal response to the state’s agony in 2005, a chapter of history no one should ever repeat.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who toured affected communities in East Baton Rouge Parish Friday, also remarked disapprovingly on the president’s vacation while in Louisiana.
When one supporter told Trump that “we’re glad you’re not playing golf in Martha’s Vineyard,” the billionaire replied: “Somebody is. Somebody is that shouldn’t be.”
But Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, defended the president’s decision in a Thursday interview, citing the steep use of resources for such a high-profile visit as reason enough to wait.
“[T]he vice president was here about three weeks ago to go to a memorial service for the victims of the police officers that were killed here, and I will tell you it’s a major ordeal,” Edwards told MSNBC. “They free up the interstate for him. We have to take hundreds of local first responders, police officers sheriff’s deputies and state troopers to provide security for that type of visit. I would just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the president. So I’d ask him to wait if he would.”
Edwards also praised the president’s quick response to the flooding disaster in the interview, noting that Mr. Obama had reached out via phone to discuss the crisis, declared the area a disaster zone as soon as Louisiana requested it, and sent all the resources required by the state.
Mr. Obama was briefed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Friday about the ongoing response and recovery efforts to the severe flooding, which hasand claimed the lives of more than a dozen people.
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