Aug 29, 2010 12:43 PM by Chris Welty
VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. (AP) - President Barack Obama is aiming to
underscore his commitment to a region weary of calamity as he
travels to New Orleans on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane
Obama ends his Martha's Vineyard vacation Sunday and heads to
the Gulf, five years to the day from when Katrina roared ashore in
Louisiana. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded when the storm
tore through protective levees and about 1,600 people died.
After years where halting progress mixed often with setbacks and
despair, the city was getting back on its feet when the BP oil
spill dealt another blow. The exploded well spewed more than 200
million gallons of crude into the Gulf before it was capped in
Obama is to speak Sunday afternoon at Xavier University, a
historic SEy black, Catholic university that was badly flooded by
the storm. The White House says he will discuss what's been done
and remains to be done in rebuilding from Katrina, and also talk
about an oil spill cleanup that's been complicated by conflicting
assessments of how much oil remains and its long-term effects.
For Obama, one challenge is to reassure residents who remain
skeptical of government promises after witnessing former President
George W. Bush's response to Katrina, which was criticized as
out-of-touch and hamhanded. Although criticism of Obama's response
to the Gulf oil spill rarely reached the level of anger directed at
Bush, some still saw it as lacking in speed and coordination. Obama
has work to do to change that perception.
Moreover, Obama arrives as many residents of the Louisiana coast
chafe under the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling he ordered in
the wake of the spill, which is costing New Orleans'
O l-industry-dependant economy. And many residents would like to
see a greater federal commitment to restoring the coast's rapidly
eroding wetlands which provide the first line of defense again
The one-day visit to New Orleans is the start of a grueling
period for Obama, who must set a fall agenda amid punishing
economic news. Crucial midterm elections loom in November.
Tuesday marks the formal end to combat missions in Iraq, and
Obama is to address troops in Ft. Bliss, Texas, and deliver an Oval
Office speech. The next day he plunges into Middle East diplomacy,
hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas for individual talks and a joint dinner
ahead of direct negotiations Thursday between the leaders.
And once Congress returns after Labor Day, more battles await as
Obama tries to push his legislative agenda.