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.