President Obama with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Sen. Richard Shelby (center rear) and other officials, April 29, 2011.
President Obama with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Sen. Richard Shelby (center rear) and other officials, April 29, 2011. Charles Dharapak/AP
Natural disasters are no respecters of political parties or any of the other numerous ways humans use to separate themselves from each other.
That seems to get largely ignored until calamities happen. Then, state officials who usually criticize the federal government as overly intrusive welcome help from Washington. Northern liberals and southern conservatives, Democrats and Republicans can't offer enough kind words for each other.
So it was on Friday when President Obama visited Alabama which experienced the majority of the more than 300 tornado-related deaths in the region.
Obama came to see the destruction caused by an outbreak of tornadoes of historic proportions, check in on federal emergency response efforts, and meet with Alabama officials as well as victims some storm.
Obama commended the efforts of state and local officials, including Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican who took office earlier this year who won, in part, by criticizing Obama's new health-care law and vowing to oppose it.
And Bentley thanked Obama for taking the time to visit as well as the speedy federal assistance that was coming through the Federal Emergency Management Agency among other agencies. After praising state and local emergency responders, Bentley said:
And now we have the federal government helping us. And you know, that just shows when locals and state and federal government works together, we can get things accomplished. And that's what we're going to do.
The power of tragedies to rip up the normal political script was strongly felt Friday by the players Friday.
Obama shared with reporters an observation by Tuscaloosa's Democratic mayor, Walter Maddox.
And finally, I think the mayor said something very profound as we
were driving over here. He said, you know, what's amazing is when
something like this happens, folks forget all their petty differences;
you know, politics, differences of religion or race — all that fades
away when we are confronted with the awesome power of nature. And we're reminded that all we have is each other.
And so hopefully that spirit continues and grows. If nothing
else comes out of this tragedy, let's hope that's one thing
that comes out.