The Republican leaders, adversarial media, and hurt survivors who are criticizing Joe Biden for his delayed and allegedly inadequate response to the deadly fire on the Hawaiian island of Maui may have accused him of opportunism and electoralism in the event of a quick trip to the island. terrain, accompanied by a more showy display in front of the fire. The truth is that the criticism of the president, some understandable, does not stop while the number of deaths grows and grows, well above a hundred. The president will go to the island on Monday, along with his wife, to comfort the families of victims and commit to them; to explain the aid sent and listen to the local authorities.
The fires were declared on the night of Tuesday, August 8, and Biden did not make any statement about it until Tuesday the 15th. Hence the first reproaches. But, although the president did not speak directly in almost a week, his spokesmen did soon, on the 10th. Through a statement and an intervention by the head of communication for the National Security Council, John Kirby, the White House announced that day the declaration of disaster for Hawaii and the immediate shipment of "federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the affected areas." The officials conveyed "deep condolences for the lives lost and for the destruction of land and property" from the president, who was in contact with the archipelago's leaders from the beginning.
But, on Sunday, Biden stumbled. A journalist asked him about the tragedy. And his response, according to the insider, Justin Sink, was that he had nothing to comment: “After a couple of hours on the beach in Rehoboth, @potus (acronym for the president) was asked about the increase in the death toll in Hawaii. "No comment," he said before going home, "reported the journalist on the X network.
Former President Donald Trump, at that time about to receive his fourth criminal indictment, this time for mafia practices to try to overturn his 2020 electoral defeat in Georgia, took the opportunity to charge Biden. His “No comment”, he claimed, is “absolutely horrible”. The former president dusted off his denial about climate change by adding that the island's governor, Democrat Josh Green, "limits himself to blaming global warming and other things that simply cross his mind."
Other Republicans of course joined Trump's attack, sometimes surprisingly. Florida Ultra Rep. Anna Paulina Luna called it "unfortunate" that the government was giving "more" help and attention to Ukraine than to Maui. “Hawaii and the people of Hawaii are so much more important than places like the Ukraine,” she said in a video likewise posted on X.
Also the occasional Democrat complained about Biden. This was the case of the former state representative from Hawaii Kaniela Ing, director of the environmental organization Green New Deal Network, for whom the attitude of his leader was disappointing. “I expected more,” he said.
The situation for the president did not improve when his press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, mixed up the names and genders of Hawaiian parliamentarians at her Monday press conference. The Republican National Committee, together with right-wing media such as Fox, The Federalist or National Review, pounced on her and her boss, both in their broadcasts and publications as well as in two messages on their favorite social network, X. And the editorial board of The New York Post, of the Murdoch Group, sentenced: "Joe Biden is indifferent to the Maui fires because he will win in Hawaii anyway."
In his long-awaited statement on Tuesday, the ruler clarified that he had not quickly moved to the archipelago so as not to get in the way: “I don't want to get in the way. I've been to too many disaster areas, and I want to go and make sure we have everything they need," but also "that we don't disrupt ongoing recovery efforts."
At the same time, the White House unveiled its extensive aid package to Hawaii to fight the fires and assist the victims, with more than 500 federal troops and support from various government departments, including Health, Defense and Agriculture. Hours later, the president announced his visit to the disaster site for next Monday. A view that may take longer than usual, given the complexity of the effects caused by the biggest fire the country has experienced in more than a century (since the huge 1918 fire in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with 453 deaths).
In the main area of the Maui fire "they still can't clean up because they don't know how many bodies there are," Biden said when the number of bodies was close to a hundred but the number of missing exceeded (and exceeds) a thousand. “They don't know what's left. Imagine what it means in that situation to be the father or mother, husband or wife” of one of the disappeared, he added as a sign of empathy.
The complaints about Biden's reaction to the Maui fires, caused by the drought and the wind, although the specific cause is still unclear, are added to those that the president had to accept due to his "slow to insufficient" response to the toxic spill of a freight train in the town of East Palestine, Ohio, in February.
As if that were not enough, the political opposition and part of the residents of Maui lashed out on Wednesday and yesterday against the administrator of the island's Emergency Agency, Herman Andaya, for not having activated the sirens when the fires broke out. He, with the support of Governor Green, argued that he did not regret it, since the use of sirens could have caused greater evils; As he explained, the 80 alarms installed in Maui are commonly used to warn of the arrival of tsunamis. And many, to protect themselves from a great tidal wave, would have run to the mountains just “at the worst moment”, when the fire was growing on their slopes.
The flames on most of the affected surfaces may have been extinguished. But its effects still seem far from extinction. Effects of all kinds.