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Here I come to save the day...

During the recent terrorism scare in Boston, I was reminded of something I find rather odd.

As soon as it was announced that there was a "credible threat" to Boston, the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire flew home from the President's inauguration. The threat turned out to be nothing, thank heavens, but it still brought something to mind.

Whenever there's a disaster or threat of one, one of the first things the guy in charge -- be he or she president, governor, or secretary general -- does is to go "inspect the disaster." This always struck me as singularly stupid. For a recent example, let's look at the hurricanes that hit Florida last year. President Bush went down to see for himself.

What the hell was that supposed to accomplish? Real disaster relief was interrupted by the arrival of Air Force One, Marine One, and all the accompanying security and media requirements, just so one guy (who's dealt with a few disasters, but strictly from the top, not as a "man on the ground" type) can look out a helicopter window and say "yup, it's bad?"

This is a non-partisan thing. In the Boston example, Massachusetts' Governor Romney is a Republican, while Cow Hampshire's Peter Lynch is a Democrat. I also remember President Clinton touring the Midwest after the devastating floods of the mid-90's.

Personally, I'd rather see our Chief Executives acting like executives, and not jumping on to a plane or helicopter over every single disaster. Let them do what they do best -- manage -- and muster support for the folks on the ground who actually go out and get their hands dirty, instead of just getting in their way.

There have to be better ways to garner support and draw attention to such events without rushing to the scene and interfering with the people who are doing the real work.

J.


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Comments (33)

Q: What the hell was... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Q: What the hell was that supposed to accomplish?

A: Prove he cares.

Next question please.

Hey, what can I say? When I... (Below threshold)
julie:

Hey, what can I say? When I turned on the televsion on 911 and saw Rudy schlepping around town, I can't express the relief seeing him brought me.

Oh, and I can't express the... (Below threshold)
julie:

Oh, and I can't express the disgust in seeing my own mayor and every city politician trying to get in on the deal. They would hold these unncessary press conferences where half the air time was spend introducing these nobodys.

I agree that the disruption... (Below threshold)
Retread:

I agree that the disruption of visiting dignitaries is a problem, but didn't the press trot out the 'doesn't care' line when Bush didn't immediately announce plans to visit Florida? Certainly they carped about his lack of immediate public crying for the tsunami victims.

As for Rudy being visible all over NY after 9/11, that really did serve to reassure people, and not just in NY. Different situation, I think.

9/11, I think we agree, was... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

9/11, I think we agree, was an exception. There had to be a show of strength, of defiance, in the face of the attacks. Hurricanes and floods, however, don't care whether or not we "stand up" to them. "Rallying the troops" is pretty irrelevant when the enemy is Mother Nature.

J.

Unfortunately, when it's a ... (Below threshold)
jim:

Unfortunately, when it's a Republican leader the MSM carps about him or her "not caring." When it's a Dem, they usually give him or her a pass.

When the WTC was attacked by Islamofascists in 1993, President Clinton never visited the disaster site. When the Islamofascists finished off the WTC in 2001, Senator Hillary Clinton did not attend one police officer or firefighter funeral. The only events Hillary attended were the ones being covered by the news media.

I think there is a value to... (Below threshold)

I think there is a value to people who's lives have just been ripped apart to have the VIP presence on the ground. It reassures them that they are not going to be left out in the cold.

If I were you Jay, I'd conc... (Below threshold)
Rob Hackney:

If I were you Jay, I'd concentrate more on ways to HELP OUR GREAT LAND, than CRITICIZE one of our GREATEST Presidents for showing he damn well cares about us in times of need.

Leaders are meant to lead. Veterans understand this, even if some civilians such as yourself don't!

I think this is a worthwhil... (Below threshold)
Allan Yackey:

I think this is a worthwhile discussion that may require more than a shot from the hip to understand.

Chief Executives from Generals to the owners of small companies take trips to the "field" all of the time. That observation alone should suggest that there is some value in it.

Even the development of the language suggests that there is human experience that accepts this kind of behavior. We frequently refer to people like this as "leaders". It is difficult in concept to lead from behind.

An above post notes that soldiers understand and accept this as a good thing. I suspect that human nature accepts and maybe even expects it.

At least one value to the leader himself it to assure himself that the reports he has are not distorted. Subordinates on occasion are less than candid.

In addition, how many times have you been somewhere and had the impression that pictures don't do it justice?

I will concede that poor leader might want to drop by just to mug for the cameras, but we can figure that out from what we see under those circumstances as well as other conduct.

I don't think a blanket objection to leaders showing up at scenes of problems is in order.

Done mostly for the photo o... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

Done mostly for the photo op and to avoid charges of not caring or lack of compassion.

Honestly, I can't say that I am horribly bothered by presidential or governor visits, the ones I never quite got were the congressional visits to where the tsunami hit-at least for governors and presidents can make the argument that the people affected were their constituents, I still don't quite understand why our senators and congressmen were jumping planes for Indonesia.

The Clinton slime machine w... (Below threshold)
ridgerunner:

The Clinton slime machine was able to make Bush Sr. look uncaring and out of touch when FEMA was slow in responding to a series of hurricances in florida.
This is above all to parry a strike from the political oppositon and a perpetually hostile press.
On the other hand it does remind beureaucrats the Big Guy has a direct interest in how well the job at hand is completed.

This reminds me of the Russ... (Below threshold)
Amber:

This reminds me of the Russian submarine 'Kursk' disaster that killed all 118 crewmembers.

While the world was trying to come up with a solution to try to save the crew, President Putin was on vacation sucking pina coladas on the beach off the Black Sea.

This reminds me of a sarcas... (Below threshold)
dchamil:

This reminds me of a sarcastic remark by one victim of
a hurricane: "Just what we need, a helicopter full of
politicians and newsmen!"

The politicians that I know... (Below threshold)
89:

The politicians that I know about made sure that their visits wouldn't interfere with the relief effort, and had an agenda of meetings with local government and relief agency officials.
And visits from the leaders can be a real morale booster to the men and women "on the ground".

Yeah... It probably would m... (Below threshold)

Yeah... It probably would make things run smoother if the executives stayed away and did their executing.

Unfortunately, you know as well as I do that if they did that, the opposite political party would bash their brains in for "not caring enough" to go and visit the disaster site.

You know, it sort of seems ... (Below threshold)

You know, it sort of seems like the time that Bush dropped in secretly in Iraq (Baghdad airport? I forget) for that Christmas (Thanksgiving?) Dinner. Why did he do it? Some say photo op, some say politics, I say that he probably wanted to show that he still remembers about our troops and that he is proud of them.

There is a deep psychologic... (Below threshold)
Meezer:

There is a deep psychological need that the victims have to have their tragedy validated. Why do victims have to tell, over and over, what they experienced? It's not just attention getting - they need to do it to process the event and get on with life. Having a VIP (and the president is the VIP-ist) visit helps confirm that what happened to them is real.
(My sister is a therapist who deals almost exclusively with victims of rape and other traumatic events.)

^ That too... (Below threshold)

^ That too

It's a leadership function.... (Below threshold)

It's a leadership function. Sometimes the troops need to see you out in the field, showing the colors if you will, to remember that you're one of them and that you're doing your job for them. A lot of the President's job is highly symbolic -- we, the people, need to see him out governing even though we know that the real work he does gets done in the Oval Office, not out pressin' flesh in Collinsville, IL.

If he didn't get out among the people, we'd have a potentate. "Oh, look, that must be a king." "How can you tell?" "He hasn't got shit all over him."

A pretty wide range of reac... (Below threshold)

A pretty wide range of reactions there. I've honestly never given it much thought. But, I would have to agree with some here in that I would feel some sort of comfort knowing the big guy cared enough to show up. So a helicopter and a plane comes in amongst a bit of security. Airforce One and Marine One probably do this with the utmost efficiency as does any security involved.

It's the press we should get ticked off at for making such a ruckus. It's the media that tends to get in everyone's way, impeding any work that needs to be done. They bring in huge crews of people performing redundant duties and stepping on toes.

Have one neutral crew come in and do all the footwork and feed it to the other agencies. "What?" you say. And deny [network name here] be denied their spin or their fashion consultant denied a chance discuss who wore what?

Bad idea?

89 wrote: And visits fro... (Below threshold)

89 wrote: And visits from the leaders can be a real morale booster to the men and women "on the ground".

Amen, especially those of us who live in Florida.

Jay Tea, you missed badly on this one. For six straight weeks we had Mama Nature coming at us from every direction. I wasn't even in the most badly affected areas but it was bad enough. We'd get through one, and here comes another. Keep in mind, too, not one of us knew where any of them would actually make landfall or what path it would take after.

Then there were the constant twisters and other really fun things that each caused elsewhere in the state. Six weeks of it, Jay Tea, not including Tropical Storm Bonnie that came through first. To put it mildly, and I'm not really speaking for everyone, we were shellshocked.

You asked what Dubya accomplished by coming down here? At a minimum as 89 said, he boosted morale which trust me, is something that we all desperately needed.

Doyle is absolutely right. ... (Below threshold)

Doyle is absolutely right. The President's visit was a huge boost to morale. People had just lost everything. People were depressed, and some were suicidal. Sometimes a little attention from above is all you need to press on.

You really have to go to ot... (Below threshold)

You really have to go to other political systems to get the origins of the practice of the leader visiting disaster areas. Russia or China will do nicely. There were so many lying officials between most disasters and the guy at the top that the victims learned over the centuries that they needed to see the top guy around or it would be a major fubar situation where they would be ignored and their plight unattended to. This phenomenon has been hard coded into our cultural DNA, its been that common.

This kind of thing would be... (Below threshold)
melior:

This kind of thing would be more effective if the Pretzeldent would bring his huge "Mission Accomplished" banner with him, and smirk at the heaavens to "Bring It On."

Then America would know how much he Truly Cares(TM).

- Its all about the press a... (Below threshold)

- Its all about the press and their willingness to jump on anything they can carp about, playing on the publics emotions. Remember the artificial dustup over Bush's "inattention" during the first days of the tsunami desaster. Of course they full well knew he was dealing with it within hours from his command post in Crawford on his ranch, but those sort of "facts" never stops the MSM. If they think they can gain some traction with a "skewed perceptions" piece they jump on it with steel boots. I like the way Bush does the right things and just ignores them. Must piss them off to the point of an distraction......

When politicians say they c... (Below threshold)

When politicians say they care about me, I feel like a giant target has just been painted on my wallet, or my freedom, of both.

In Jay's defense, no one is... (Below threshold)
julie:

In Jay's defense, no one is going to die from lack of food, water, sheltar when disaster strikes. How about all the UN bozos, reporters, and dare I say, Bush Sr. and Bubba? Can it not be argued that any resources that went to ferrying them around could have been better put to use?

Just to be clear, make that... (Below threshold)
julie:

Just to be clear, make that: no one is going to die from lack of food, water, sheltar when disaster strikes in the U.S.A.

It makes a huge difference ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

It makes a huge difference to people AFFECTED by tragedy, that those representing government appear and appear to empathize and recognize need by those affected.

It's a different story to people looking in, or at, situations such as this but then again, those writing are maintaining their daily routines, aren't stricken by sudden loss of life and property and can wax opinions quite distantly because of that.

But, if you're struggling to figure out where and how to shower for a day, what you'll do for housing next week, how to bury a loved one and to deal with that emotional loss, I really do believe that seeing the President, of all people, show up and mingle makes a world of difference, much less a Senator and/or Congressperson. It really matters and from a point of morale alone, in addition to the hope of helps that those persons bring with them to affected areas.

About the tsunami damage, I think it was impressive that Clinton and Bush toured the area, for not only morale reasons but to indicate a near involvement on a humanitarian level that was and is real by the American people. But I do recognize certain grandstanding efforts by some, just that in that case, Bush (Sr.) and Clinton did the right thing by making a tour appearance of the tsunami damage -- plus they could return to the Mainland and verify the level of damage, thus managing to encourage more giving for aid assistance.

My key irk about situations... (Below threshold)
-S-:

My key irk about situations like this, however, isn't with the touring representatives but with the folks who insist on rebuilding and otherwise repopulating areas that are proven disaster areas. Can't figure that out...seeing the images of the tsunami damage in most areas, it was clear from the original geography that the areas bore previous high water marks and were repopulated, then destroyed by the recent tsunami. Meaning, the areas affected were populated heavily by people who built on already established tsunami damaged areas. Same thing with the MidWest where recurring flood damage takes place, with people building homes and businesses on sandbars and such. Makes no sense.

I do think that there should be limits to public assistance after one rescue. Rescue a destroyed community once from a hurricane/tidal wave/flood/tornado, fine, but when it takes place repeatedly, it's obvious that the areas aren't reliably safe for human habitats, so...I think we should restrict recurring rebuild efforts, or, if allowed, then do so with the clear indication that there isn't going to be further taxpayer funded rescue if the area is again destroyed.

Terrorist events, things of that nature, that's a different story.

It's all about image. The e... (Below threshold)

It's all about image. The execs have to prove that they are "in touch" with their constituents by leaving their offices and acting like responders. I also have a sneaking suspicion that viewing disasters firsthand actually does affect their perspective and may lead to more aid. But it's mostly due to cries from the victims (and the press) for the execs to leave their ivory towers when disaster strikes.

I blame media hype and general stupidity, not the execs themselves.

Jay, Paul is right. Pres Bu... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Jay, Paul is right. Pres Bush didn't get in anyone's way when he went to Florida. He helped dole out ice, food, water, goods, spoke to people, held them when they cried and it was exactly the right thing for him to do - show the people he cares about them. Not just "manage" from the office and say I care at the same time; that doesn't prove anything. His actions make him the man he is and I would not want him to change by any means - he's human, he has emotions, he even cries. He's a good man doing exactly what he should have done and the people of Florida appreciated it, just as they appreciated his arrival in NYC after 9/11.

You're getting too cynical. This is not one of your better posts.

Cindy

My own opinion is that a po... (Below threshold)
Jayne:

My own opinion is that a politician coming to an area indicates that they are saying that the situation is not so dangerous that they can't come and lend some support. Of course they must follow it up with action. I was impressed that Clinton went to the Oklahoma bombing site, but it was not until 9-11 that I realized a President could do more than just cry with victims.




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