President Barack Obama is planning a visit to Louisiana to speak with lawmakers and victims of the recent flooding in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. Conservatives have spoken out recently to attack the president for his failure to visit the state, while Louisiana's governor has said that a presidential visit would be chaotic and unproductive, siphoning resources away from what is still a dire situation for many.
Obama, who is nearing the end of his second term as President, has faced harsh criticism from the GOP during the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, much of it focused on his public vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a point to visit and commiserate with victims of the natural disaster, with many on the right (including Trump supporter and former “Cheers” actress Kirstie Alley) painting Obama's vacation as an example of his lack of regard for America's citizens. Newspapers in Baton Rouge and New Orleans have similarly challenged Obama's decision to continue his vacation. Many cited President George W. Bush's visit to the state in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as an example of a more prompt and engaged response, despite the fact that federal resources have thus far been appropriately allocated to the region under Obama's administration (something that the Bush administration was heavily criticized for failing to do following Katrina).
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, in an interview with CNN, stated that he had specifically asked Obama not to visit the area until things were more stable. “I didn’t want to divert these police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers and other essential resources and assets to providing security for the president while they were needed in this region to undergo those — or to undertake those response activities,” said Edwards, a Democrat. He went on to state that the president was always welcome in the state, but emphasized that the resources needed to bring him for a visit could be better used to address imminent and life-threatening issues with residents who were still in immediate danger.
This is the second time in months Obama has been criticized for not visiting Baton Rouge in the wake of tragedy. He was attacked earlier this year for not visiting Baton Rouge in the wake of the killing of Alton Sterling by police, or a subsequent, related incident in which a man killed three police officers in a premeditated assault. Obama instead visited Dallas, where a sniper killed five police. As the nation prepares for the most contentious presidential election in recent memory, Obama has been the subject of numerous attacks from Trump and others on the right. He faces a tight time frame following Labor Day, as Congress has only a month to sign off on a new budget to keep the country operational. Volunteer efforts in Baton Rouge have been effective in helping with rescue and repair efforts for those still in danger or forced from their homes by the flooding.