Losing an entire city is the worst thing that can happen to a political leader. The second-worst thing? Acting like you don’t care.
President George W. Bush suffered both those fates in 2005. As Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, Bush flew overhead in Air Force One and looked out the window at the flood that drowned over 1,000 people. Bush never recovered the popularity he lost from the perception that he was indifferent to New Orleans’s suffering.
That could be why Gov. Pat Quinn has decided to visit Cairo while it’s still there. Last week, Quinn made the Bush-like mistake of flying over the state’s southernmost city in a helicopter, but refusing to land. Quinn compared himself to Gen. George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff who coordinated World War II from Washington, D.C.
That didn’t impress the residents of Cairo, who were still waiting to find out whether the courts would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to blow up a dam, flooding Missouri farmland to divert water from Cairo.
“Everyday right across the river we saw the congresswoman and the governor of Missouri talking up for a bunch of farmers over there, and we have nobody over here speaking up for us,” former Cairo mayor James Wilson told Illinois Statehouse News. “We started raising hell.”
Sen. Dick Durbin and Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon visited Cairo last Friday. This morning, Quinn will finally show up. Here’s the press release from his office.
Governor Pat Quinn will give an update on flood response in Southern Illinois.
WHO: Governor Quinn
Federal, State and Local Officials
WHEN: Media advised to arrive at 11:15 a.m.
Briefing scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.
Directions: I-57 South. Use Exit 1 to reach US 51 South. Checkpoint is located on Rt. 51, just north of entrance to City of Cairo. Press must present credentials to Illinois State Police at checkpoint and further guidance will be provided.
Cairo is fortunate the floodwater didn’t rise about the 64-foot levee last weekend. So is Gov. Quinn.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!