As McCain and Palin make their way down to Mississippi today they would do well to remember George H. W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Most people remember Bush botching the job, prompting one outraged local official to ask “Where’s the cavalry?” But at the time Bush’s first trip to the Miami area was roundly criticized for coming too soon in the storm’s aftermath – and forcing local law enforcement to take much-needed resources away from first responders in order to protect the president. Then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton jumped on this, pledging to visit only when asked and when he would be sure not to detract from recovery efforts. There is a danger in visiting areas stricken by or preparing for natural disasters. Not only does it leave politicians open to charges that they are politicizing the storm and people’s suffering, it can seriously hurt first responder efforts.*
*Good point Jeff Ellerbee.
Obama was asked about this at an avail after church this morning in Lima, Ohio. His response:
I think for John to want to find out what is going on is fine. The thing that I always is concerned about in the middle of the storm is whether we are drawing resources away from folks on the ground, because the secret service and various security requirements sometimes it pulls police and fire and other departments away from concentrating on the job. I am assuming that where he went that wasn’t an issue and we are going to try to stay clear of the area until things have settled down and then we will probably try to figure out how we can be as helpful as possible.