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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Obama Visits New Orleans (Too Briefly)

10/15/09

President Obama visits New Orleans for about four hours today. He will visit the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in the Lower Ninth Ward from about noon till 1:00 p.m., and then will hold a town hall meeting at UNO from 1:15 to 2:00. This is his first visit as president. He has been to New Orleans five times since Hurricane Katrina (Aug. 2005). His last visit was before the Louisiana primary in February 2008, when he spoke to a full house at Tulane University. It’s a brief drive-by visit, but as usual we have to be thankful for any attention we can get.

Louisiana senators Landrieu and Vitter have criticized the brevity of the president’s visit—they’re not the only ones—though Landrieu yesterday on MSNBC softened her tone, saying she understands he has “a lot on his plate” and expressing gratitude for the visits of housing and education and other cabinet members and the help they’ve provided and promised. See Landrieu’s informative 8-minute video (above) for a review of the critical issues facing the state that she hopes the president will focus on. In a letter to the president Vitter urged Obama “in the most respectful way possible to expand your visit to ensure that it includes several important site visits, helicopter tours of coastal erosion/hurricane protection issues in parishes surrounding New Orleans, and focused discussion with community leaders regarding ongoing challenges.”

Most of the Louisiana congressional delegation, including Republicans Governor Bobby Jindal and congressmen Vitter, Steve Scalise, and Anh “Joseph” Cao, will be on hand for the president’s visit. Who won’t be there? Democratic representative Charlie Melancon, who is running against Vitter in the upcoming senate race. Melancon has been helpful on coastal restoration and other issues but apparently does not want to be photographed with the president for use in Vitter’s inevitable attack ads (already Vitter is hitting him—or is it praise?—for voting with Obama 84% of the time).

The Times-Picayune has a full list of articles relating to Obama’s visit here.

The New York Times yesterday profiled the criticisms of what Rep. Steve Scalise memorably described as a “drive-through daiquiri summit.” At least his state is getting a visit—Mississippians are even less pleased.

The White House added the Ninth Ward school visit after criticism about the trip’s brevity. For the city’s sake, including the excited schoolchildren’s, we’d much rather he took a trip down to see the ravaged wetlands that desperately need shoring up.

Yes, we are happy for any presidential attention New Orleans and the Gulf Coast can get, but it stings (and stinks) that Obama flies from the sunken city to a fund-raiser in San Francisco.



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