Tornadoes and the presidential visit


President Obama toured the tornado destruction in the southeast United States this morning. “I’ve never seen devastation like this,” he said as he stepped through the debris in Tuscaloosa.

As I mentioned on 5×8 this morning, one letter-writer to the Star Tribune criticized Obama for taking too long to schedule his trip, saying he flew to a fundraiser in California instead. Forgetting the fact that the fundraisers in California happened four days before the first tornado struck Alabama, I looked back at the presidential response in visiting regions where major natural disasters occurred (I left off Hurricane Katrina; it being so well documented).

“Any other president would be called out on this. Where is the media demanding accountability?” the writer asked.

Event President Date of Event Date of tour
Oklahoma City tornado Clinton 5/3/99 5/8/99
Alabama tornadoes Obama 4/27/11 4/29/11
Georgia tornadoes Bush 3/1/07 3/4/07
Kansas tornadoes Bush 5/4/07 5/9/07
Tennesse tornadoes Bush 2/5/08 2/8/08
Red River flooding Clinton 4/17/07 4/22/07
California wildfires Bush 10/20/07 10/25/07

For the record: None of those incidents/visits prompted any coverage of complaints the presidents took too longer to get to them.

Last Sunday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked that his state be declared a disaster area because of wildfires. He’s not happy about the presidential attention on the tornado states. “You have to ask, ‘Why are you taking care of Alabama and other states?’ I know our letter didn’t get lost in the mail,” Perry said after addressing a Texas emergency management conference.

A FEMA spokeswoman said Texas has already received 22 grants to help pay fire management expenses this fire season, including 16 in April alone.