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Obama's Irene response: Leadership or theater?
In direct contrast to George W. Bush during Katrina, President Obama takes center stage to lead the federal government's relief efforts
 
President Obama, along with FEMA chief Craig Fugate, speaks to the nation Sunday about the storm that battered the East Coast: The president's front-and-center role is being criticized by some as political theater.
President Obama, along with FEMA chief Craig Fugate, speaks to the nation Sunday about the storm that battered the East Coast: The president's front-and-center role is being criticized by some as political theater.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

During the East Coast's weekend brush with Hurricane (and later, Tropical Storm) Irene, President Obama personally directed the federal government's response from a disaster command center in Washington. Obama returned a night early from his Martha's Vineyard vacation to coordinate federal and local relief efforts, and received updates from governors as the storm moved up the coast. Plenty of photos and videos of the president undertaking this role — intended, it would seem, to contrast sharply with George W. Bush's near-absence as Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans in 2005 — were released to the media. Was this a show of leadership, or an attempt to score political points?

What a partisan "charade": President Obama "isn't competent to organize a Little League baseball team," says John Hinderaker at Power Line, much less a multi-state hurricane relief effort. His photo-op at the disaster center was a "charade" aimed at politicizing the storm — an obvious attempt to make the Obama administration's response look good in comparison to the Katrina fiasco. "This is one more step in the degradation of American politics."
"How to politicize a hurricane"

Actually, this is what leadership looks like: President Obama was just "doing the job he was hired for," says Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress. It takes a coordinated response from federal, state, and local authorities "to minimize the loss of life and property" from a monstrous storm. Conservatives, "still reeling" from Katrina, are just lashing out at Obama to downplay the importance of his leadership — something George W. Bush failed to provide in New Orleans.
"Right wing tries new tactic to soften Bush's Katrina debacle: Say Obama's leadership on Irene is just for show"

It's not as if this is a big victory for Obama: "There's simply no winning for politicians," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. The death and destruction from Irene was less severe than feared, so it's easy to poke fun at President Obama's response now. But the bottom line is that there's not a lot any politician can do when a killer storm barrels in. Obama, with Katrina's lessons fresh, did about all he could — and "looking concerned while not projecting panic goes a long way."
"No-win politics of natural disasters"

 

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