LaPLACE, La. – President Obama insisted on Monday that the federal government can help Gulf Coast residents picking up the pieces after the devastation of Hurricane Isaac.
In Louisiana, the Democratic incumbent delivered a forceful defense of government involvement to counter the oft-repeated Republican argument that business and free enterprise are the main drivers of U.S. success.
What I’ve pledged to these folks is we’re going to make sure at the federal level we are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here and what can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again and expedite some of the decisions that may need to be made, Obama told reporters after touring hard-hit St. John the Baptist Parish, 30 miles outside of New Orleans.
Joined by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, Obama walked through a neighborhood of brick homes and front yards that were a painful reminder of last week’s hurricane.
In the sticky heat, the president walked from house to house, asking residents about what happened and posing for photos. There was debris but no signs of lingering water.
We’re here to help, the president said at some homes.
Obama praised the coordination of federal, state and local officials and pointed out that his administration issued disaster declarations well in advance to ensure officials weren’t behind the eight ball. In highlighting the work, Obama was drawing a contrast with President George W. Bush’s widely criticized response to Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.
Prior to his visit to Louisiana, Obama’s remarks about the storm have focused on what money and resources the federal government can marshal to help. Romney used his trip Friday to emphasize the need for charitable donations to help people recover.
On the flight from Ohio, White House press secretary Jay Carney said natural disasters are apolitical, but he jabbed at the Republican presidential ticket and the candidates’ stand on the government’s role in aiding the victims.
It is worth noting that last year there was an effort to underfund the money that’s used to provide relief to Americans when they’ve been hit by disasters, Carney said. That effort was led by congressman Paul Ryan, who is now running to be vice president.
Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said the chairman of the House Budget Committee believes providing aid to victims of natural disasters is a critical obligation and should be treated as a high priority within a fiscally responsible budget.