Obama praises FEMA chief's response to Louisiana floods
© Moriah Ratner

President Obama on Tuesday praised the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for his handling of the recent flooding in Louisiana.

“[He’s] somebody I can’t brag enough about,” Obama said of Administrator Craig Fugate in Baton Rouge, La., during a visit to flood-damaged areas.


"One of the best hires I’ve made as president," he continued. “[Fugate] has done such an outstanding job not just with this particular incident, but he has really rebuilt FEMA so that there’s a change of culture.

“Everybody knows that when a disaster happens, FEMA’s going to be there cooperating with state and local officials rapidly and with attention to detail and keeping the families who’ve been affected uppermost in their minds. So we very much appreciate everything Craig’s done," Obama added.

Obama has faced criticism for not cutting short a vacation in Martha's Vineyard to visit the state sooner.

Storms and flooding damaged over 40,000 homes, left thousands displaced and killed at least 13 people.

The White House earlier this week dismissed criticism over Obama's decision not to visit the area sooner and rejected comparisons to then-President George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina in the state in 2005.

“[The Obama administration’s response] has been much more effective and much more impactful than the initial FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina,” spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.

“[FEMA officials] learned from the painful lessons of Katrina,” he added, noting the changes since Fugate took over in 2009.

Critics argued Bush acted too slowly during his response to Katrina.

Bush at the time even praised his FEMA chief, Michael Brown, saying he was doing "a heck of a job," sparking an uproar.

GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE on Tuesday called Obama's visit "too little, too late." Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceDemocratic front-runners defend their age during debate Warren says she'll beat Trump 'or Pence or whoever the Republicans get stuck with' Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' MORE (R-Ind.), his running mate, visited the state on Friday.

Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE said she didn't want to interfere with recovery efforts and would visit soon.

Obama on Tuesday hailed FEMA's work as example of how the federal government helps citizens.

“If you think about the number of significant natural disasters that have occurred since my presidency began, you’d be hard-pressed to find a local official anywhere in the country, including those in the other party, that wouldn’t say Craig Fugate and his team have been anything less than exemplary and professional,” he said.

“That’s why it’s important I think to take the federal government seriously, to take the federal worker seriously,” Obama added.  “There’s a tendency sometimes to bash them and think that they’re these faceless bureaucrats.

“But when you get into trouble, you want someone who knows what they’re doing, who’s on the ground working with outstanding officials, and that’s true whatever the party.”

This story was updated at 3:27 p.m.