In what the Red Cross is calling the worst natural disaster in America since Hurricane Sandy, Louisiana is experiencing catastrophic flooding. Thousands of people have lost their homes. At least 13 people have died. And a state that is still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina is left to bear the burden of yet another tragedy.
Right on cue, Donald Trump has decided to opportunistically exploit the situation.
Having spent the week screaming at journalists on Twitter and re-arranging chairs on the Titanic, Trump abruptly announced that he and his running mate Mike Pence would be traveling to Louisiana to “survey” the damage. Until then, he hadn’t bothered to mention Louisiana a single time. It’s unclear if he was even aware there was a flood.
Telegraphing his play, Trump’s camp suggest that by going down to Louisiana while President Obama was still on vacation, Trump cared more about the victims. Trump’s Ministry of Propaganda, run out of the offices of Breitbart News, boldly proclaimed, “Trump Visits Louisiana Flood Victims as Hillary Rests and Obama Vacations.”
The cynical publicity stunt fooled absolutely no one – including, it seems, the governor of Louisiana. In a biting statement, Gov. John Bel Edwards pulled no punches:
Donald Trump hasn’t called the governor to inform him of his visit. We welcome him to LA, but not for a photo-op. 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.
In other words, posing for pictures does nothing. If Trump actually cared about the people of Louisiana, he would break out his checkbook or start filling sandbags. The Republican candidate seems unlikely to do either. There just isn’t enough publicity in those sorts of things.
Meanwhile, conservatives continue to lash out at President Obama for daring to be on vacation when a natural disaster hit. Surely, when the White House organized this vacation months ago they could have known a massive flood would strike! Some even suggested that this is Obama’s “Hurricane Katrina,” referencing former President George W. Bush’s widely criticized response to New Orleans. As Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post noted, the barbs hold absolutely no weight.
…in Obama’s mind the sort of performance-for-the-sake-of-performance that Republicans are demanding is everything that’s wrong with politics.
That’s why Obama won’t break off his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard — or stop playing golf on said vacation — to travel to Louisiana. Because he believes he can monitor the situation as well — or better — from where he is. And that the sole reason to go to Louisiana is for the theatrical piece of politics, a piece that he not only rejects but detests.
The takeaway: Obama won’t pull a Trump and travel down to Louisiana to get some time in front of a few cameras. He’s interested in actual solutions, not grandstanding. And flying Air Force One down to a region still struggling to pull people out of flooded areas would only complicate the situation for rescuers.
(It’s also worth reminding critics that the issues with Bush weren’t that he didn’t fly down to New Orleans. They were that he didn’t seem to show any interest in what was happening – and when he finally got around to it he gave the responsibility of handling it to an old family friend with limited experience and even less brain cells.)
So look for Trump to land in Louisiana, followed by a line of television news crew, as he ignores the advice of the governor and gets his photo-op. He won’t help a single resident get dry or rebuild their homes, but he will have a field day attacking President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Featured image via Brian Blanco/Getty Images