An Appeal to Our Leaders about their Behavior in the Face of Disasters

Obama was in Alabama last Friday.  He was followed on Sunday by five cabinet members.  FEMA workers and federal assistance were not yet there helping.

If an active combat operation of the kind that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden over the weekend can be monitored live in Washington at both the CIA and the White House and drones fired in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be actually launched and guided by people sitting in the United States, surely the Federal Government‘s activities in the wake of Katrina and last week’s tornadoes in the South can be monitored at a distance.  The first and most important step is not for officials from Washington to go to the scene.  This is pure political grandstanding and a distraction for the victims to deal with when they already have more than they can handle.

Yes, I’m saying that George W. Bush’s Air Force One flyover after Katrina was better than if  he had found a place to land and then put the local officials through the elaborate operations required for a presidential visit.

I understand the need for politicians to be seen in important settings doing important things.  But there is also some need for the public to see them exercising judgement consistent with the circumstances.  Their first priority after Katrina and the tornadoes ought to have been getting help to the affected people.  If visibility is desirable, they can go back after help is underway to see how things are going.  This might actually serve some function rather than just being a voyeuristic publicity stunt.

Apt restraint is a virtue, even for politicians.

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