These days it has become a standard part of just about every natural calamity to befall the United States. President Obama in recent years has visited the sites of hurricanes, tornadoes and a devastating mudslide in Washington state. On Tuesday, Air Force One will touch down in Baton Rouge, La., where epic flooding caused the country’s worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Why has a presidential visit become such a standard part of the federal government’s response? The main benefit is to rally support and bring in donations at a time when media attention can be fleeting.
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Other Bush administration officials said that a presidential stopover would have required assistance from Coast Guard rescue helicopters and probably would have cost lives. “Those same helicopters . . . would have been pulling people off rooftops,” said Steve Atkiss, a special assistant for operations in the Bush administration.