Obama Puts Focus on Disaster Relief in Okla. and N.J.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 27 2013 10:10 AM

Obama Gets Away From Washington Controversies by Putting Focus on Disaster Relief

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President Barack Obama speaks following a tour of tornado-ravaged areas of Moore, Oklahoma

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

First Oklahoma, then New Jersey. President Obama’s Memorial Day weekend is being marked by highlighting the government’s response to natural disasters in a move that his allies hope will help the White House shift attention away from recent controversies that have dominated the news in recent weeks. With Congress out for the week, it’s a good time to get out of Washington.On Sunday, Obama traveled to Moore, Oklahoma and vowed federal help to rebuild after a huge tornado destroyed blocks of homes, two schools and a hospital in the Oklahoma City suburb, reports Reuters. "Obviously the damage here is pretty hard to comprehend," Obama said.

On Tuesday, Obama will once again hit the theme, but on a more hopeful note as he will take a post-Hurricane Sandy tour of the New Jersey coast line. With New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie by his side, Obama will seek to portray the message that good things can happen when government officials put aside their partisan differences to work on a common goal. New Jersey has launched a $25 million marketing campaign to promote that the Jersey Shore is back in business. Obama’s visit will help amplify that message.

For the president, the trip helps him get away from the scandals that have been engulfing his administration involving the IRS, the Justice Department’s review of phone records, and the response to the Benghazi attack. By focusing on disaster relief, the president gets an opportunity “to demonstrate the work of another part of government that provides a foil for the IRS: the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose response to disasters has been met with bipartisan praise,” points out the Associated Press. Criticized for its response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the agency is widely believed to have turned around in recent years. 

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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