President Joe Biden hasn’t been talking much about the Maui fires since Thursday, and this has sparked criticism from Republicans who believe he’s not addressing the disaster.
In a scenario that the White House surely doesn’t want, while Maui was dealing with the aftermath of a devastating wildfire, President Joe Biden was relaxing on the beach in Delaware, riding his bike, and not saying much about the most deadly wildfire the U.S. has faced in a hundred years.
When reporters tried to get his comments, he just mentioned, “We’re looking at it,” as he pedaled past them on his bike.
Biden initially spoke about the catastrophic fire last Thursday. However, the next day, his son became the focus of a special investigation, and since then, Biden has remained mostly quiet in the face of reporters’ questions, whether about his son Hunter, the fires, or any other topic.
The four days of silence have not gone unnoticed. Reporters questioned the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday about Biden’s lack of response, while Republicans criticized him for not addressing the devastation. Conservative media even put images of Biden on the beach alongside footage of the fires to highlight the contrast.
Former President Donald Trump, in a video released amidst his own legal troubles, criticized Biden’s response to the fires, stating, “It’s a disgraceful thing that Joe Biden refuses to help or comment on the tragedy in Maui.”
The White House counters this criticism by pointing to their on-the-ground response as evidence of their seriousness. About 500 federal workers are helping in Hawaii, FEMA has supplied meals, water, and other essentials, and various branches of the military are supporting firefighting efforts.
Biden has also been in touch with Hawaii’s governor and other officials. A White House spokesperson, Andrew Bates, said, “We won’t be lectured by Republican officials in Washington who are doubling down on denial of the climate crisis…”
However, despite these actions, critics continue to seize upon Biden’s relative silence as a point of contention. The Republican National Committee even sent out an email with a picture of Biden relaxing on a beach chair while mentioning the challenges faced by Hawaiians.
Considering Biden’s history of comforting those in pain due to personal tragedies, some are surprised and disappointed by his current silence. As someone who has experienced loss himself, he has often provided solace to those in need, promising that time will heal their wounds.
Typically, offering this kind of support involves visiting the disaster scene. A White House spokesperson mentioned that they’re considering a visit to Hawaii, but it’s logistically complex due to the ongoing firefighting efforts and the need not to disrupt them.
Presidents are often judged by their response to natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath revealed shortcomings in President George W. Bush’s handling of the situation, and similar scrutiny happened to President Trump over Puerto Rico’s hurricane crisis. It takes time to evaluate a president’s response and whether they’ve addressed the needs on the ground effectively.
Looking ahead, getting resources to Hawaii may become a partisan issue in Congress, as historically Republicans have hesitated to allocate additional funds for disasters in areas that don’t usually vote for their party. Hawaii’s Senator Schatz is already advocating for bipartisan funding to support the state’s recovery.
The original article was published on NBCNews.com.