Editorial: President pledges support for Florida victims in a return to order

There was nothing particularly remarkable about the Biden administration’s swift approval of an emergency declaration for Florida following the extensive damage inflicted by Hurricane Idalia when it blew through the state last week.

The people of Florida needed help and the White House pledged to leverage the full resources of the federal government without hesitation. President Joe Biden spoke to state officials throughout the storm and promised that Washington would provide whatever assistance was needed.


Lest we forget, that’s how things are supposed to work. There is no place for politics in the aftermath of a natural disaster, not when the focus should be on helping the victims and getting battered communities back on their feet.

Though the president juggles a number of weighty responsibilities, perhaps the most public is his role as “comforter-in-chief.” Americans have come to expect the chief executive to travel to hurting communities, meet with those who have suffered and pledge to deliver the help necessary to rebuild.

It’s a script we’ve seen play out time and again. Some feel it’s an essential part of the job while others maintain it’s overblown and an unnecessary distraction for security personnel and first responders, who have more pressing duties than protecting a politician.

What’s beyond question is that the president’s arrival can be incredibly powerful for a community in a disaster’s aftermath. Having the president there helps victims feel seen and lets them know they won’t have to go it alone.

Due to the ongoing climate emergency, it seems each ensuing president must attend to these duties with greater frequency. Last month, Biden visited Hawaii to tour Lahaina after the wildfire there, while also monitoring the effects of an uncommon Pacific hurricane that pounded California and other southwest states.

The White House turned its attention to Florida last week after Hurricane Idalia made landfall there, damaging thousands of homes as it crossed the peninsula. Biden quickly approved disaster declarations and made plans to visit.

Last Saturday, the comforter-in-chief visited Live Oak, Florida, scenes of some of the worst destruction.

Floridians might have expected to see Gov. Ron DeSantis there as well, especially since his office coordinated with the White House. But the governor was a no-show.

Instead, Republican Sen. Rick Scott, a former Florida governor, was on hand to usher Biden through the community and, in a welcome note of bipartisanship, to thank the White House for its response.

“First off, the president did a great a job with the early declaration before the storm hit the coast. That was a big deal. It helped all these first responders,” Scott said. “And then how fast you approved through FEMA the individual assistance, the public assistance. It was a big people deal. These are not rich communities. Many of them struggle … I want to thank you for doing that very quickly.”

DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, surely had his reasons for skipping that meeting, but if he can’t set aside his political ambitions in order to help disaster victims — his constituents — that speaks volumes about the governor.

One thing Americans know: Florida won’t be punished for DeSantis’s snub. This White House will continue to support the victims there and provide the resources and relief the state needs to recover. There will be no talk of blocking or reducing aid because Florida voters didn’t support Biden’s election in 2020.

Instead, the president will act compassionately and professionally in helping Americans in need. That used to be commonplace and unspectacular, now it’s somewhat notable when the president acts as a president for all. After all, that’s how things are supposed to work.