A Review of Presidents’ Responses to Disasters

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Recently, two hurricanes, Irma, and Harvey, hit the southern regions of the USA. As these disasters occurred, I was reminded of past disasters (in my living memory). I’d like to highlight four, three if you consider the recent two hurricanes to be the same disaster.

The dimmest memory would have to be Deepwater Horizon. After that, the more recent Louisiana floods, and finally, the last month of storms in the south, Harvey and Irma. I wanted to look at the responses of the presidents and how they were received in the media. I started with the Deepwater Horizon.

As I watched the enticing movie this summer, I decided that I wanted to learn more about what happened. What I discovered was horrifying. A time of natural death and destruction, famous pictures of birds covered in oil, and shining water covered with oil slick for miles. Just these images reinforced the destruction that can be caused by humans.

Overall, the response to this by our then President, Obama, was relatively well done. However, there were several ways in which he could have reacted better. The biggest, in my opinion, was the refusal of ships from foreign countries for about 70 days. Though Obama had legitimate reasons, mainly that the allies were asking for money for the help of these ships, if he had accepted their offers immediately, he would have helped deliver relief to some of the horrible damage that occurred. While the reasons were legitimate, if help had been accepted earlier, more damage could have been aborted.

Next, the Louisiana floods. Huge floods caused damage across large swaths of Louisiana, with more than 40,000 homes and buildings damaged. While the cleanup and rebuilding effort was strong, many cast anger on President Obama for his decision to stay away from the affected areas and continue his vacation.

It is true that presidential visits often disrupt efforts to help damaged areas, but to not leave a family vacation when an important part of the country is in danger, in my opinion, the leader of the country is morally obliged to help affected areas after a natural (or man made) disasters.

While he did visit, he should have come as soon as possible. But, to his credit, he tried to help.

Overall, these two disasters show one of Obama’s greatest weaknesses: strong words, weak to no action until it gains the limelight. Maybe he did want to be the president to go down in history, as many of his opponents have said, but I do not think that that was his goal. I think that he wanted a good image but did not have the resolve to actually achieve what he promised or called for. We can see this through gaffes like the infamous “Red Line” in Syria and the Politifact Lie of the Year: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” But at least he showed up, even if it was later than he should have.

President Trump’s reaction to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were quick, hard, and certain. Before Irma hit Florida, he tweeted to “Just get out of the way,” and to listen to government officials for evacuation and how to stay safe as the hurricane advanced. Before that, he spent several days in Texas to talk to affected citizens, and recently donated one million dollars, and helped organize other donations. President Trump has certainly worked hard to warn beforehand and to help afterwards.

He has shown a strength in the response to crises that our previous president did not. While Obama did eventually work to fix problems, he took his time. President Trump has acted with strength and decisiveness to help those harmed by these disasters.  Different presidents have different styles, and if President Trump can act in the same way that he did in response to these hurricanes, dealing with disasters could be his niche.

Featured Image: http://www.dailywire.com/news/20363/president-trump-damned-if-he-does-damned-if-he-joseph-curl#exit-modal

About the author

Conrad Krapf is a Sixth Former who wrote for the Parkman Post in his freshman year. He is interested in politics, history, and current events. You are as likely to find him reading the news as you are to find him watching a Youtube video on practically anything from hilariously awful conspiracy videos to music theory analysis.

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