By Kenneth Cooper
It will begin with a caption:
While the President Played Golf, a True Leader Comforted the Stricken, Toured the Devastation
Cued will be a picture of Donald Trump handing a teddy bear to a grateful child, hugging a sobbing mother, solemn looks while he shakes hands with a weary father. The shot will pan to flooded neighborhoods, debris piled on curbs and street corners, then to president Obama, on the greens, smiling as he sinks a putt then hops into a golf cart.
It will end with that golf cart riding away and the following caption: Louisiana, I’ll be there after my vacation.
An editor of a local newspaper appears to be furious. That editor wrote and published a letter demanding Louisiana’s fair share of symbolism. At this point, that’s all the president has to offer, with his appearance. FEMA has already been dispatched, so has Homeland Security, but there are people who want to see the president, to be in his presence. To them an appearance means something.
Mostly these are members of the media and politicians. They spread their discontent to some citizens, who then say, yeah why hasn’t the president come visit us? When he does arrive, a familiar scenario unfolds. Politicians greet him, shake hands, smile, and take pictures. The media then takes him around, presents him to a few citizens, who then say, oh my god it’s the president. They get to touch him if they like, and listen while he talks about rebuilding through strength and perseverance, then there’s a speech covered nationally. After that, it’s back to Air Force One, while the stricken wait on their true saviors – insurance checks, the SBA, or FEMA.
You couldn’t blame a president if he felt a little self-conscious about this whole performance. But some will blame any president if he doesn’t make it an option. A symbolic show it is, but it is one that many have come to demand and expect. Here, though, we should be accustomed to being snubbed.
After Katrina, Bush had to be dragged off of Air Force One. Five years later, after the BP oil spill, you would’ve thought a visit to Louisiana would’ve entailed president Obama walking across an oil slick. On Friday, Donald Trump didn’t even need an invitation. He just bought a truck load of toys and showed-up. It was a moment for some to say, “Wow he actually gets it.”
It would be nice, if future presidents would make it a point to dissuade those in the media, politicians, and some citizens off of their addiction to this type of symbolism. There are times when the president needs to be the Comforter in Chief, and there are times, like this, when he needs to just get out of the way and delegate. But we’re nowhere near there yet.
So it should’ve began with a statement: President Obama is interrupting his vacation to survey the damage in Louisiana.
Cue in a picture of the president boarding Air Force One. Zoom in as he turns to smile and wave. Pan out to a shot of Air Force One barreling down the runway, then lifting off and disappearing into the skies, white streaks marking its path to patriotic glory. Symbolism