By Bonnie K. Goodman
Republican nominee Donald Trump became the first major leader to visit flood-ravaged Louisiana, beating out President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump visited Baton Rouge along with his vice presidential running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence toured the damage on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Trump specifically visited Greenwell Springs in East Baton Rouge, St. Amant in Ascension Parish, and some areas of Lafayette.
A Louisiana Republican leadership delegation met Trump at the airport. The delegation included “Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Congressman Garret Graves, Congressman Steve Scalise, and Eric Skrmetta, a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission and co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Louisiana.” Pence arrived before Trump with his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte and received an early briefing.
Trump and Pence’s visit took them to the areas where the floodwaters are now receding, and the real damage is visible. Trump visited Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, where he met with
“Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”
There Trump and Perkins criticized vacationing President Obama for not coming to the state. Trump said, “The president says he doesn’t want to go; he is trying to get out of a golf game.” Meanwhile, Perkins commented, “I heard he wants to stay under par while we are under water.” Then Trump joked, “He will never be under par.”
The GOP ticket commenced their tour by meeting with “local officials, volunteers and the National Guard and touring the flood damage.” The Republican ticket met also with “Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.” They visited one of the organizations’ mobile kitchens, and where they were “cheered by the crowds.”
Trump also donated an 18-wheeler full of supplies, and he and Pence helped unload them. Trump said at that time to reporters, “I’ve had a great history with Louisiana. They need a lot of help. What’s happened here is incredible. Nobody understands how bad it is. It’s really incredible. So, I’m just here to help.” Liberals later criticized because the supplies included many toys.
Pence also commented to the media, saying, “These volunteers are incredibly inspiring but the American people need to know that Louisiana needs help. Volunteers, support for the Red Cross, support to the charities like Samaritan’s Purse that are coming along side these vulnerable families and we’re just here to help tell that story and very inspired by it.”
Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ issued a statement about Trump’s visit that was semi-critical. Edwards office said, “Gov. Edwards wasn’t informed of the Trump campaign’s visit to the state or the schedule. We welcome them to Louisiana, but not for a photo-op. Instead, we hope they’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”
Obama has been vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and been spending most of his time golfing, except a fundraiser for Clinton. The president is facing criticism for avoiding visit Louisiana in the past week. The flooding has caused 13 deaths, while thousands have been dislocated forced to leave their homes because of the flooding, with many of these homes damaged, it has been the worst devastation Louisiana has seen in years.
The White House later announced on Friday, that Obama would be touring the damage in Louisiana on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The White House’s statement announcing the visit said the President is “eager to get a first-hand look at the impact of the devastating floods and hear from more officials about the response, including how the federal government can assist and tell the people of Louisiana that the American people will be with them as they rebuild their community and come back stronger than ever.”
Neither has Clinton visited the region. Instead, she received a briefing from Gov. Bell. Clinton posted a message after on Facebook, writing, “My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions. The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need,” she wrote in the post. “These are our friends, our family members, our community –, and they’re counting on us to reach out with open arms right now.”