(WASHINGTON) — Former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Michael Brown, who ran the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said President Obama should have put down his golf clubs last week during the height of the floods ravaging part of Louisiana.
“The problem is the optics,” Brown said during an interview Monday on the Fox Business Network.
Brown — who received then-President George W. Bush’s infamous praise, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” as thousands of survivors went without food and shelter 11 years ago — said Obama was justified in not descending immediately on Baton Rouge, which would have diverted critical resources from flood recovery.
But the president should have adjusted his vacation schedule to demonstrate he was aware of the serious natural disaster that was unfolding, Brown said.
“It doesn’t mean jump on Air Force One and go to every disaster. It means that you need to speak to the American people. … You sometimes need to get off the golf course when bad things are happening so you don’t have the two [TV] windows of somebody golfing while people are being rescued from rooftops,” Brown said.
The flooding has killed at least 13 people and more than 100,000 people have registered for federal assistance in southeastern Louisiana as of Monday morning, according to the Louisiana governor’s office.
The flash flooding first struck the Baton Rouge area on Aug. 12. The president arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts the week prior, and returned to Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
Obama is scheduled to visit the area Tuesday, after the White House pointed out last week that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson traveled there to meet with local officials.
“While in Martha’s Vineyard, the President has received updates on the situation in Louisiana, including from the DHS Secretary and the FEMA Administrator, who took separate trips there,” the White House said in a statement Friday. “The President today directed his team to coordinate with Louisiana officials to determine an appropriate time for him to visit, and together they have determined that the President will visit Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday, August 23rd.”
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