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Obama’s Response to Hurricane a Contrast to Benghazi

As Jonathan mentioned yesterday, Hurricane Sandy is giving President Obama a break from his shrinking campaign of “Romnesia” jokes and conservative trolling. The president held a press conference to address the hurricane earlier today, and it was hard to recognize him without the anti-Romney zingers:

President Obama said in a news conference at the White House this afternoon that he is “confident that we’re ready” for Hurricane Sandy, the massive storm expected to make landfall later today and churn up much of the East Coast. …

Obama spoke for about five minutes after being briefed by FEMA and other agencies. He answered only one question, about next week’s election, and said his focus is not on campaigning right now.

“I am not worried, at this point, about the impact on the election,” Obama said. “I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. The election will take care of itself next week.”

Obama rushed back to Washington to coordinate with FEMA and hold a press conference, as he should have. But it’s also a stark contrast to his response to the 9/11 attack. It’s been a month and a half since the Benghazi assault, and the president still hasn’t held a press conference or given a speech to the American public about the terrorist attack. He also rushed out of Washington the day after the attack, flying to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser.

Why such different reactions? Maybe because a natural disaster isn’t a result of any presidential failures. It’s something the Obama administration has no control over, just like (as administration officials repeatedly told us) it had no control over an anti-Islam movie that was initially blamed for the Benghazi attack.

But it’s also true that the president will get most of the political blame if something happens to go wrong with the federal hurricane response, and little credit if things go smoothly. The optics of Obama campaigning in a swing state during a FEMA failure would be disastrous.

Which is why he’s back in Washington and finally taking a pause from the pettiness of his campaign to focus on national concerns. But will he return to the trivialities when the hurricane ends? Or will he use this as a chance to elevate his campaign rhetoric between now and next Tuesday?


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