Obama urges caution as Isaac approaches

President Obama briefly addressed the nation Tuesday regarding Tropical Storm Isaac, which is in the Gulf of Mexico and expected to make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday, threatening the coastal states.

Obama urged residents of the region “to listen to local officials and follow their directions,” especially with regard to evacuation orders.

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“We’re dealing with a big storm,” Obama said. “Now is not the time to tempt fate.”

Obama said he received a briefing Tuesday from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Craig Fugate, National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The president noted that the administration was prepared to provide all the assistance needed to the affected region, and that FEMA has been on the ground in the area for a week.

Seven years almost to the day since Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, Tropical Storm Isaac appears to be headed right for Louisiana's largest city. On Monday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) sent a letter to Obama saying the federal government was not doing enough to help the state cover the expenses it’s taking on in preparation for the storm.
 
President Obama on Monday declared a state of emergency for Louisiana.

The action by Obama makes federal funding to the state available immediately, but Jindal said it “only provides for direct federal assistance” and doesn’t “provide for reimbursement of expenses that the state is taking to prepare for the storm.”

Obama did not address Jindal's concerns in his remarks Tuesday.

The White House said that the president intended to keep to his campaign schedule for Tuesday, with stops in Iowa and Colorado, but would be closely monitoring the situation in the Gulf.

Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Obama “will adjust” his campaign schedule if “anything needs to be changed” due to the hurricane.

“The president is also out there laying out the stakes for what is a very important election for a generation, there’s almost no group with higher stakes for what happens in November,” she said. “That’s also important.”

“But there’s plenty of time between events, there’s plenty of time for briefings and if changes need to be made we’ll make them,” she said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, did not respond directly when asked about Jindal’s letter, but rather noted everything the administration had done.

Carney said in addition to the aid provided to Louisiana, FEMA and the Department of Defense had set up incident bases in Florida and Alabama, and that other mobile emergency support teams had been positioned ahead of the storm.

Carney was also asked about the president’s current plans to continue campaigning.

“The president is president every day,” Carney said. “He takes the potential effects of this storm very seriously.”

“He will be getting briefed on its developments throughout today and obviously throughout tomorrow,” he added. “He is also conducting campaign events but will be minding, will be getting information regularly on the status of the storm and on the status of the federal response.”

On Tuesday afternoon, FEMA's Fugate responded to Jindal's request. Fugate said it was most important to approve direct federal assistance for Louisiana first, which would provide funds for life-saving operations during the storm. Jindal’s request for reimbursement assistance will be addressed afterwardsm he said.

“That is a reimbursements program that will come after the fact,” Fugate said on a conference call with reporters. “We felt it was more important to get the first part of the request out, the ability to provide direct federal assistance…so that anything on the life safety aspects, we would be able to provide that.”

Jindal said Monday that he would not attend the Republican National Convention this week. He had been expected to speak on Tuesday night in the middle of a program dominated by popular Republican governors, leading up to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote address.

Isaac has already wreaked havoc on the convention schedule, forcing organizers to cancel the first day of events and reshuffle the speaking lineup. On Monday, Republican aides said the plan was to press forward with the convention timeline, but they would not rule out additional cancellations or changes.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. and 2:02 p.m.