See? On Gustav, Obama Really IS Just More of George W. Bush

Pardon the snarky headline, but today I witnessed something which may well have me heading for the fainting couch. Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama actually came out with a decision which was completely in step with the choice made by President George W. Bush and I was nodding my head in agreement with both of them. President Bush announced today that not only would he not be at the convention on Monday as planned, but would not be in New Orleans either. Choosing to stay out of the way of the anticipated relief efforts, he is heading home to Texas to coordinate with FEMA executives, the military and the leadership in the various Gulf States which will likely be affected.

Obama issued a similar statement.

Senator Barack Obama said that he had talked to the Louisiana governor and other officials. He added that he was monitoring the storm, but was planning no tour of the coast because he wanted to stay out of the way.

Bush apparently has learned his lesson from both Katrina and the 2004 Florida hurricane season. During Katrina, the president took mild criticism for flying over the affected areas in Air Force One, because any such air travel shuts down air lanes, no matter how pressing the need may be. In 2004, Bush took a photo op handing out food and water in the Sunshine State. The resulting chaos from his Secret Service entourage shut down traffic for hours and hindered relief efforts more than it helped.

By way of contrast, Senator John McCain and his presumptive running mate flew down to Mississippi to meet with various officials and hold press conferences highlighting everything they were doing in the face of this disaster. (One can only assume that the normal contingent of Secret Service and the throngs of press members were in tow.) We live in the era of the interwebs, cell phones, conference calls, teleconferences and 24 hour cable news services which will provide live video of everything happening on the ground 24/7. You lose nothing by not being there other than missing an opportunity for a press conference and photo opportunity.

I would also remind both Senators Obama and McCain that neither of you are currently the President. Nor are Palin or Biden the Vice President at this time. Louisiana and Mississippi both have fully-functional Governors and Senators in place to handle the impending possible crisis. It appears, at least at this time, that President Bush is on top of the situation, coordinating preparations and bracing for the storm as best as can be managed. Perhaps candidates for an election which is still over two months off should just get out of the way and let them do their jobs rather than turning this into a sideshow.

UPDATE: While I was pecking away at my keyboard, Joe Windish already put in more information on this subject.

8 Comments

  1. I would also remind both Senators Obama and McCain that neither of you are currently the President. … Perhaps candidates for an election which is still over two months off should just get out of the way and let them do their jobs rather than turning this into a sideshow.

    As you noted, Obama is not going there… so why are you criticizing him like this?

    And to be fair to McCain, he likely feels he has to go there, with all the photos circulating of his birthday cake w/ Bush on the day Katrina hit. Damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario.

  2. Chris, I wasn't criticizing Obama on this particular case. In fact, I praised him for his decision. I was just pointing out, in a more general fashion that both candidates occasionally do things that seem as if they think they are already the president. (Obama in Gaza, McCain sending Cindy to Georgia, and other incidents which I'm not dredging up right now.) If it makes you feel any better, I think McCain has been guilty of somewhat more of these than Obama, but I would still want to caution both of them to remember that – like it or not – Bush is still the president and they must wait their turn until they actually get sworn in. This week it's definitely McCain's turn in the barrel to be reminded of this.

    Now that I re-read it, though, I see your point. Sorry about that. I was probably being a bit sloppy on a Sunday afternoon. I'll try to do better.

  3. Jazz, thanks for the clarification to Chris. I had the same thought as Chris when I read the article….. it seemed as though you were criticizing Obama, even though you earlier said that you agreed with him.

    I too think that this is a “Damned if you do, damned if you don't” situation for McCain (and he had better not try to turn the tables on Obama over this). I think with McCain going it is political opportunism, but I'll keep my comments to a minimum on that…

  4. Jazz,
    I appreciate your quick response and I understand what you're saying a lot better.

    For what it's worth, I think it's valuable to see how the candidates respond to actual crises that come up during the campaign season. But we should avoid giving a lot of weight to these wasteful photo-ops and more to what the candidates say they would do. I don't think that's out of bounds.

    On that score, McCain's response to the Georgian conflict was very insightful. He responded with a lot of Bush-first-term style bluster and ultimatums. That was probably very comforting to about 30% of the country, and frightening for the rest of us. I was also disappointed to see Obama adopt a similar stance, but at the very least, he was low key about it.

  5. No matter what happens. It's Bush's fault.

    You heard it here first.

    Heading to Texas now to help with relief.

    Neocon signing off.

  6. Neocon : “No matter what happens. It's Bush's fault.”

    I think he has more than enough legitimate blunders to account for without you trying to blame him for the next time you trip over a crack in the sidewalk. ;-)

    As for the McCain trip to MS? He wouldn't be going there if he wasn't running for prez, and since he's not prez, there's little he can accomplish there… except the photo op of course..

  7. IMO Bush missed it again. He's a lamer of a duck, so it doesn't matter, but to most Americans, the stronger position would be “I will be in the Oval Office, at my desk, managing this crisis” not “I'll be “working from home” on it.

    I know it probably doesn't matter which office he uses, but the perception is that he's off again, not that he's “at work, tending to things.”

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