President Joe Biden winged his way south and west on Air Force One to visit Louisiana, recently hit hard by Hurricane Ida – the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States. As he delivered remarks to the press, one million people were without power, 600,000 across the state were without clean drinking water, and much of the southern region was left near devastated, with at least nine people dead. As usual, swelteringly hot and humid weather creates even more life-threatening conditions for those surviving the storm’s aftermath.
Biden was met by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and local officials for a briefing on what he was about to see before making public comments. He did relay this message during the meeting:
“There’s nothing political about this. It’s just simply about saving lives and getting people back up and running. Rural, city, coastal, inland.”
What Mr. Biden said on September 3 closely mirrored his comments earlier in the week: “We’re all in this together. The nation is here to help.”
Biden addressed reporters after touring a devastated neighborhood in Laplace, LA, touting his infrastructure plan: “My Build Back Better Initiative will build back resiliency. We will build back levees….” But he soon regressed to structured talking points, saying, “This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. We’re in this together, and so we’re not going to leave any community behind.”
Before he concluded his remarks – in a matter of minutes – he told the same old story of his grandfather saying, “Joey, keep the faith,” and grandmother telling him, “No, spread it.” Well, at least something is being spread in Louisiana.
The president is implementing a door-to-door “spread the word” outreach by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staffers so that everyone understands what is available, in terms of aid. He pointed out efforts to restore gas flow, electricity, and cell phone signals as soon as it is safe to do so – and that it would not be like the trouble “during Katrina.” Taking a hard-line stance, Biden relayed that he is pressuring private insurance companies to step up payouts to victims, saying, “don’t hide behind the fine print.” The president then vowed to put $500 into citizens’ bank accounts, yet didn’t detail how that would work or who would be eligible.
Mr. Biden left the podium with the now-trademarked act of turning his back – and not taking questions – to complete the Ida devastation tour by helicopter by viewing some of the hardest-hit communities of Laffite, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon, and Lafourche Parish.
After making landfall just Southeast of New Orleans, Hurricane Ida cut a northbound swath of destruction across the Eastern seaboard, wreaking havoc in New Jersey and New York with torrential rains followed by flooding earlier this week. At least 46 people have perished in the Northeast, and the president has already issued a “declaration of emergency” for those areas.
The commander-in-chief’s final destination for the long weekend? Wilmington, DE. What a surprise.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.