Did President Barack Obama leave his winter coat back home in Chicago?
Saying, “I will continue to monitor the situation carefully,” in his weekly radio/web address, the president listed the comprehensive relief efforts set in motion this week by the federal, state, and local agencies charged with responding to natural disaster in and around Fargo, North Dakota as the Red River swells 122 feet above flood stage.
No doubt that the governors of the affected states (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota) and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano are up to the task. But personally, if I’d spent the last week out in freezing temperatures furiously, yet perhaps dubiously filling sandbags to hold back the floodwaters, I’d sure like to see The Big O strolling down the road passing out a few hot cups of cocoa from the local (and now possibly submerged) Starbucks.
This isn’t Hurricane Katrina in reverse, because no one is saying that the federal response is inadequate. That’s not the issue. The president is wasting a chance to boost our collective confidence that the government actually cares. Last June, Obama took time out from the campaign trail to visit a flood zone in downstate Illinois and gave an interview while he helped a kid shovel dirt into sandbags—and he looked like a capable leader doing it.
Of course, no one expects Obama to solve the problem itself; an act of God is above his pay grade. But come on, Mr. President—you’ve got your own plane.
If Northwest Airlines can devote two of its commercial jet liners to evacuate hospital patients out of the Fargo area, how hard would it be for Obama to jet into Minneapolis on Air Force One, shuttle over to Fargo, get the lay of the land, say a few encouraging words to the FEMA folks on the ground, and then roll back to D.C.? He’d be home in time to have dinner with the family and catch the second half of tonight’s NCAA games.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.