August 21, 2016

You may have concluded from various news reports that Donald Trump did nothing in the Louisiana flood zone yesterday except hand out Play-Doh, but that's not accurate -- Matthew Teague of The Guardian notesthat in St. Amant, Louisiana, Trump handed out diapers and water bottles. So Trump's Louisiana trip was a self-serving photo op, but not a completely ridiculous one.

However, if one of the locals quoted by Teague is any indication, you wonder why we're even talking about Trump, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton in connection to this disaster at all -- at least some of these people would have you believe that they don't need any damn handouts, from the government, an alleged billionaire, or anyone else:

“This is [Trump's] stomping grounds,” said Greg Patterson, who was cleaning muck from his store called the Pit Stop. The idea that a billionaire from Manhattan could describe the working-class corner of Louisiana as “his stomping grounds” did not strike Patterson as contradictory.

“We’ve got 2,000 houses damaged just in this area alone,” he said, stretching his arm out to the south. “These people are already back in their homes, working to repair them. It’s not like down in the Ninth Ward.”

That was a reference to one of the quarters of New Orleans that was worst hit by Katrina a decade ago. That neighborhood is mostly poor, and mostly black.

“I mean that’s a bunch of government-owned housing,” Patterson said. “Nobody here is looking for handouts or waiting on the government. These are Trump’s people.”

It was a bombastic statement, and maybe emotionally satisfying, but it was also untrue: more than 60,000 local people have applied for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

Of course, people like Patterson might literally believe that they can accept aid from FEMA, or handouts from Trump, and still be "self-sufficient" -- unlike Those People in New Orleans -- because, well, y'know.

I'm reminded of the Craig T. Nelson interview immortalized by Jon Stewart:

"I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No!"


On the question of visit timing: Yes, President Obama waited until the end of his vacation to schedule a trip to the area. Yes, President Bush was criticized for vacationing during Katrina.

But the disasters are very different. In the current flooding, 13 people are dead and 40,000 homes have been damaged. In Katrina, at least986 people died and 1 million homes were damaged. The current flooding is horrible, but Bush was faced with a much worse disaster, and dealt with it inadequately. In the current crisis, the heads of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have been to flood zone, 20 parishes have already been declared federal disaster areas, and quite a bit of assistance is already being provided. If the federal response turns out to be insufficient, that's a reason to grumble about the president. But that's not what we're hearing. We're hearing payback for the criticism of Bush's apparent indifference to Katrina. But that was a much worse situation.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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