Obama visits flood-ravaged New JerseyWAYNE, N.J. — Walking past piles of water-soaked rubble, President Barack Obama stopped to tell victims of Hurricane Irene that the federal government would do what it could to help them rebuild their lives and homes.
By: Peter Nocholas, Associated Press
WAYNE, N.J. — Walking past piles of water-soaked rubble, President Barack Obama stopped to tell victims of Hurricane Irene that the federal government would do what it could to help them rebuild their lives and homes.
One woman blurted out a way he could do just that.
"Give me a million bucks and I'll be happy," said Patty Mayer, a Fayette Avenue resident.
Obama pantomimed a search of his pockets. "Let me see how much I got. I didn't bring my wallet."
Often seen as emotionally removed from the country's hardships, Obama waded into a pocket of misery Sunday to try to buck up northern New Jersey neighborhoods stricken by the hurricane. He listened to stories about floodwaters that turned streets into streams and basements into swimming pools. He led an entourage of federal, state and local officials, all of whom promised not to abandon residents who said they had never seen such destruction from a storm.
The visit came as federal officials debate the proper role of the federal government in disasters.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said recently that he wants hurricane relief payments to be offset by budget cuts so as not to inflate the deficit.
Without mentioning Cantor by name, Obama dismissed that approach. Disaster aid, he suggested, isn't another version of Washington pork.
"And I know that there's been some talk about whether there's going to be a slowdown in getting funding out here, emergency relief," Obama said, standing on a bridge above the swollen Passaic River. "As president of the United States, I want to make it very clear that we are going to meet our federal obligations_because we're one country, and when one part of the country gets affected, whether it's a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, or a hurricane that affects the Eastern Seaboard, then we come together as one country and we make sure that everybody gets the help that they need.
"And the last thing that the residents here of Paterson or the residents of Vermont or the residents of upstate New York need is Washington politics getting in the way of us making sure that we are doing what we can to help communities that have been badly affected."
The president could have visited any number of states that endured major flooding, notably Vermont, but New Jersey may have special appeal to a re-election-minded White House. After winning the state in 2008, Obama has seen his approval rating dip in New Jersey. A Quinnipiac survey in June showed that 52 percent of people in the state disapproved of Obama's performance, his poorest ever in New Jersey.