Add Mother Nature to the pile of crises on President Joe Biden’s plate.
A month into the job and centered on the coronavirus, Biden is seeing his catastrophe administration abilities examined after winter storms plunged Texas, Oklahoma and neighboring states into an uncommon deep freeze that left hundreds of thousands shivering in houses that lost warmth and energy, and in lots of houses, water.
At least 59 deaths throughout the U.S. have been blamed on the blast of unseasonable climate.
Biden got here into office Jan. 20 promising to sort out a sequence of brewing crises, beginning with the coronavirus pandemic and its ripple results on the financial system. He tacked on systemic racism and local weather change as high priorities. And now he is contending with storms that haven’t solely imperiled Americans but in addition delayed the cargo and administration of hundreds of thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines.
Biden mentioned Friday that he hopes to journey to Texas subsequent week however would not need his presence and the accompanying presidential entourage to distract from the recovery.
“They’re working like the devil to take care of their folks,” Biden mentioned of Texas officers. He mentioned he’d decide early subsequent week about journey.
Biden, who supplied himself in the course of the marketing campaign because the skilled and empathetic candidate the nation wanted at this second in time, is engaged on a number of fronts to handle the state of affairs — and to keep away from repeating the errors of predecessors who received tripped up by insufficient or insensitive responses in occasions of catastrophe.
Part of the job of being president is responding to the destruction left behind by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and different pure disasters, or occasions like lethal mass shootings, and even acts of terrorism.
Some have dealt with such conditions higher than others.
George W. Bush earned praised for his management after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults however stumbled throughout his administration’s halting response to the humanitarian catastrophe that unfolded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast 4 years later.
Barack Obama mentioned he ought to have anticipated the blowback he received for going to the golf course proper after he condemned the beheading of a kidnapped American journalist by Islamist militants in 2014. Obama was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard on the time.
Donald Trump was criticized for tossing rolls of paper towels right into a crowd of individuals in Puerto Rico who had endured Hurricane Maria’s pummeling of the island in 2017. He defended tossing the towels, saying the individuals had been “having fun.”
Bill Clinton, who famously claimed in the course of the 1992 presidential marketing campaign that “I feel your pain,” was a pure at connecting with catastrophe victims.
Just this week, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas confirmed how shortly one dangerous transfer throughout a disaster can develop into a public relations catastrophe for a politician.
Cruz got here beneath assault for touring to Mexico whereas his constituents suffered with out energy, warmth and operating water. His rationalization — that his daughters pushed for the getaway as a result of they had been out of faculty — was notably panned. Cruz later mentioned the journey was a mistake.
Biden has tweeted about Texas and the opposite affected states, whereas the White House has issued quite a few statements geared toward demonstrating that the federal authorities is in charge of the state of affairs.
The president is getting common updates from his employees and has declared states of emergency in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. He mentioned Friday that he’ll quickly declare a serious catastrophe within the state of Texas and that he has requested federal businesses to establish extra resources to handle the struggling.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency additionally has shipped dozens of turbines and provides, together with gas, water, blankets and ready-to-eat meals, to the affected areas.
Biden has spoken to the governors of the seven states most affected by the winter climate. He tweeted a photograph of himself on the telephone with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.
Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, a staunch supporter of Trump’s, was fast to reward Biden for swift motion on a catastrophe declaration.
After talking with Biden by phone earlier this week, Stitt particularly thanked the president for “taking the time to reach out this afternoon and offer the federal government’s help for Oklahomans. We had a very productive call and I look forward to working together to find solutions as we recover from this historic storm.”
Barbara Perry, director of presidential research on the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, mentioned Biden is “well-suited” to deal with the disaster because of his decades of service in the U.S. Senate and as a former vice president and because of “his genuine concern for people.”
“He’s got to show empathy right off the bat,” Perry mentioned in an interview. “It’s important for a president to go to a place that’s been battered, but be careful about the footprint. He doesn’t want to make things worse.”
Biden, ought to he determine to go to Texas subsequent week, might additionally use the journey to press his level that local weather change is actual and should not go unaddressed and that the state might do issues like winterizing its energy vegetation to be higher ready for future storms, Perry mentioned.
But he ought to take care to not achieve this in a scolding sort of method.
“We know he cares about climate change, and this is a way to convince people,” Perry mentioned.
Associated Press author Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.