Obama aide deflects criticism ahead of Louisiana trip
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The White House on Monday defended the administration's response to intense flooding in Louisiana, pushing back against criticism of President Obama's decision to not visit the area sooner.


Spokesman Josh Earnest said Louisianans were "not well served by a political discussion" surrounding Obama's decision to continue his Martha's Vineyard vacation instead of visiting the state last week. 

Asked whether Obama's visit was scheduled in response to Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE's visit on Friday to Baton Rouge with running mate Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceConstruction continues despite rising concerns over coronavirus Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Sheldon Adelson donating 2M masks to first responders: report MORE, Earnest said, "Of course not."

Earnest also dismissed any comparison to the then-President George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which was criticized as being too slow.

Earnest said the Obama administration's response to the flooding "has been much more effective and much more impactful than the initial FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] response to Hurricane Katrina."

He argued that FEMA Director Craig Fugate has transformed the agency he's headed since 2009, saying officials "learned from the painful lessons of Katrina."

A newspaper in Louisiana called on Obama last week to travel to the state's flood-damaged regions and cut short his two-week vacation on Martha's Vineyard, where played his 300th round of golf as president and a round with "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David.

“The president says he doesn’t want to come. He is trying to get out of a golf game,” Trump said during his visit, according to ABC News.

Obama is slated to visit Baton Rouge on Tuesday, the White House announced late last week. He is expected to see flood damage firsthand, speak with emergency response officials including the governor, and meet with families affected by the flooding. 

About 40,000 homes have been damaged and thousands of people have been displaced by the disaster, which has left at least 13 people dead.

Obama will stress that "after the political discussions have died down" and television cameras leave the devastated areas, federal officials "will be standing with the people of Baton Rouge," Earnest said.

Earnest listed the ways Obama was personally involved in keeping tabs on the federal response, including declaring a federal emergency, receiving updates from FEMA and dispatching Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to tour the area.

Earnest said Obama was not as concerned about the political implications of a visit as members of the media were.

He contrasted focusing on the appearance of the federal response compared to the actual response, pointing to the "infamous photo" of Bush flying over New Orleans on Air Force One, saying it "underscored the risks of that kind of approach."

"The failures of that response have been well documented," Earnest said. "In response to this flood, you have Democrats and Republicans in Louisiana praising the federal response."