During the recent terrorism scare in Boston, I was reminded of something I find rather odd.
As soon as it was announced that there was a “credible threat” to Boston, the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire flew home from the President’s inauguration. The threat turned out to be nothing, thank heavens, but it still brought something to mind.
Whenever there’s a disaster or threat of one, one of the first things the guy in charge — be he or she president, governor, or secretary general — does is to go “inspect the disaster.” This always struck me as singularly stupid. For a recent example, let’s look at the hurricanes that hit Florida last year. President Bush went down to see for himself.
What the hell was that supposed to accomplish? Real disaster relief was interrupted by the arrival of Air Force One, Marine One, and all the accompanying security and media requirements, just so one guy (who’s dealt with a few disasters, but strictly from the top, not as a “man on the ground” type) can look out a helicopter window and say “yup, it’s bad?”
This is a non-partisan thing. In the Boston example, Massachusetts’ Governor Romney is a Republican, while Cow Hampshire’s Peter Lynch is a Democrat. I also remember President Clinton touring the Midwest after the devastating floods of the mid-90’s.
Personally, I’d rather see our Chief Executives acting like executives, and not jumping on to a plane or helicopter over every single disaster. Let them do what they do best — manage — and muster support for the folks on the ground who actually go out and get their hands dirty, instead of just getting in their way.
There have to be better ways to garner support and draw attention to such events without rushing to the scene and interfering with the people who are doing the real work.