Politics

Obama Fiddles While Milwaukee Burns

Neither epic floods nor riots will part the president from his golf, seafood, or vacation

Saturday was a day at the beach for President Obama. Literally. The president spent hours seaside at his vacation paradise on Martha’s Vineyard with friends, absorbing the soothing ocean breeze and floating around in the salt water.

The president may literally have been soaking up some “Good Vibrations,” the Beach Boys tune on his recently released Spotify list, or perusing “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan, one of the books the White House says he brought with him to the island.

Over the weekend, while Obama vacationed relentlessly, Louisiana officials rescued 20,000 people. More than 10,000 are sitting in shelters and a similar number have been left homeless.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the vibes were not good at all. After a police officer killed a black man, anger began to brew and by nighttime rioters were out in force and torching businesses, no matter that the deceased was armed when shot. As the rioters gathered, Obama was dining at the Red Cat Kitchen, “a place where you’re just as likely to connect with old friends as meet new and fascinating people from all over the world” and where “you can feel completely spoiled,” according to the restaurant’s website. And where entrées average about $35.

After piecing through the devastation in Milwaukee, city and state officials began to brace for whatever might come next.

For Obama, what came next was golf. After supposedly being “updated on the situation” Sunday morning, chatting with Milwaukee’s mayor, and requesting to be “kept updated,” the president spent 5.5 hours updating his golf scorecard. Along with basketball great Alonzo Mourning, Obama played the links at the exquisite Farm Neck Golf Club.

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No presidential statement. No call for calm. No anything that might have mattered.

After resting up a bit, Obama and his family roared out of his vacation home and headed to “Lola’s,” a Southern-style seafood restaurant, where he partied with friends until after midnight.

As Obama nibbled on crawfish and shrimp and grits, or whatever they were serving at Lola’s, the violence continued in Milwaukee for a second night, with an officer injured and a man shot. Things were calmer the second night — but only thanks to local authorities. No thanks to our president.

Obama MV MV Times
President Obama shakes hands with excited fellow-vacationers on Martha’s Vineyard (Courtesy: MV Times).

Now imagine if George W. Bush had done that.

The mainstream media isn’t taking note of Obama’s ruthless determination to continue with his vacation at all costs. Not so, of course, when George W. Bush was supposedly AWOL as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and put New Orleans underwater in 2005. Then, the press took lots of notes, savaging Bush for being on vacation while the hurricane struck — even though the devastation would not be clear until afterward — and for flying over the city a couple of days later to have a look instead of plunging into the chaos himself.

Bush, in fact, was on top of the situation before it got out of hand, pleading unsuccessfully with New Orleans’ incompetent Mayor Ray Nagin to evacuate the city in case of the worst. He later said that his decision not to arrive on the scene immediately was an attempt to avoid creating a distraction while desperate measures were being taken to save lives. What, exactly, was he supposed to do — don a bathing suit and try to swim to the rescue himself?

Bush cut short his vacation, though it took a couple of days, and flew back to Washington to oversee the federal response. Prudently, he arrived in Louisiana a few days after the storm had hit — instead of during the immediate aftermath — to offer encouragement and take stock of the recovery effort.

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Bush was never allowed by the press to shed the image of detachment fostered by his flyover of the scene — even though it was the right thing to do — and was portrayed as an uncaring president.

But Obama is a Democrat, and for the press, Democrats, unlike Republicans, care about people. So despite his long record of callousness in the face of tragedy, Obama is never portrayed as a president with ice in his veins.

Incredibly enough, Obama has done and said little during his current Martha’s Vineyard vacation as another flood seizes Louisiana — though of course the media aren’t providing criticism.

Over the weekend, while Obama vacationed relentlessly, Louisiana officials rescued 20,000 people. More than 10,000 are sitting in shelters and a similar number have been left homeless. Caskets were seen floating in the streets as cemeteries were uprooted. At least five people were dead.

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Obama spoke to the state’s governor, issued an emergency declaration, and of course, got an update. But again, no public statement on the tragedy.

Monday morning, though, he sent an email out with the subject line “important.”

It was a fundraising solicitation on behalf of House Democrats. Perhaps he clicked “send” from a fairway, since he was once again playing golf.

This is the same Obama who just two years ago made a public statement on the beheading by ISIS of journalist James Foley and then minutes later headed out for a round of golf. And the one who jetted out to Las Vegas to raise money the morning after the Benghazi attacks.

Obama likely failed to read one of the books on last year’s Martha’s Vineyard reading list that might have given him a lesson or two in leadership: “Washington, A Life,” by Ron Chernow. He probably just brought it along for show.

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