In a brief statement to reporters, Obama commended federal and local authorities for coordinating a rapid response that helped save lives, althought at least five people died in the storm. Obama appeared to make an oblique reference to the 2005 Katrina disaster when he said “sometimes in the past we have not seen the kind of coordination” that was necessary to respond to natural disasters.
“One thing about the people of Louisiana, they are resilient,” the president said. “They know what tough times are like, but they know how to bounce back. They were devastated a few days ago and they’re already smiling and laughing and feeling confident about the future.”
Obama has signed an emergency declaration authorizing Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide federal aid in Louisiana, whose costs for evacuations, shelters and supplies has reached over $50 million. Under the order, the federal government would pick up 75 percent of the costs of the aid, with the state responsible for the rest.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), one of Romney’s leading surrogates, has called the federal package “very limited.” He was among the dignitaries who met Obama at a small airport in Kenner where Air Force One touched down at 4:19 p.m., and Jidal accompanied Obama on the tour.
Aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked if the trip was meant to offset Romney’s approach to federal aid. On the campaign trail, Obama has said Romney favors leaving people on their own to fend for themselves.
“I think that disasters are apolitical,” Carney said. But he then said that Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), led an effort in Congress last year to reduce the funds for disaster relief.
Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck responded with a sharply worded statement saying “there’s nothing the President’s team won’t politicize,” and adding that Ryan believes providing aide to victims of natural disasters “is a critical obligation and should be treated as a high priority within a fiscally responsible budget.”
The president’s motorcade left the Kenner airport en route to a government building in LaPlace, passing civilians and military service members in fatigues, as well as camouflage-colored humvees.
A large crowd near the government building chanted, “We want the president!”