Obama Not Taking Any Chances Hurricane Irene Becomes His Katrina

The president is trying to avoid a Bush-Katrina fate.


President Obama isn't taking any chances that his response to Hurricane Irene will be a repeat of President Bush's weak performance in dealing with Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005.

Obama and his advisers are going all-out to make clear that they are on top of the situation and aren't taking their eyes off the approaching storm. In contrast, Bush was severely criticized for failing to recognize the devastating potential of Katrina on the Gulf Coast and he seemed out of touch and insensitive—which was an impression that many Americans held for the remainder of his presidency.

Obama made a statement this morning pledging an aggressive federal response to Irene as it bears down on the East Coast. "If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions," the president said. "All indications point to this being a historic hurricane."

And his senior advisers and appropriate cabinet members have been issuing their own statements describing the administration's many steps toward readiness.

[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

White House officials announced that Obama was briefed this morning via a conference call with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate while the president continued his vacation at Martha's Vineyard.

[Read: Presidential Vacation Tracker.]

Napolitano, Fugate, and other disaster-response officials also discussed their activities in a media conference call this morning.

Last night, the White House issued a six-page overview of what it called the "federal family's preparations and response" including actions by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the military. The summary said, "The administration, coordinated through FEMA, is committed to bringing all the resources of the federal family to bear to support the territories that have already been affected by Hurricane Irene and the states that are preparing for potential several weather. FEMA, through our regional offices in Boston, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City, New York, Atlanta, Georgia, and our Caribbean Area Office in Puerto Rico have been in close contact and coordination with the territories that have been affected, and states that may be impacted."

  • Read about the highs and lows of presidential vacations.
  • Read about how Bachmann's path mirrors Irene's.
  • See photos of the Obamas Behind the Scenes.