For years, pundits have routinely argued that President Obama doesn't "feel your pain" as well as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did. I've never fully understood the criticism, but pundits have said Obama has a "professorial" demeanor that makes emotional connections more difficult. It's a style that's launched a thousand "Mr. Spock" columns.
But if Obama's cerebral qualities are evidence of emotional distance, I wonder what those same pundits will say about Mitt Romney, who was in Louisiana over the weekend, visiting communities flooded by Hurricane Isaac.
Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spent close to an hour meeting with first responders and local officials. Romney shook hands with National Guardsmen outside the U.S. Post Office and talked with a local resident, Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac's flooding.
"He just told me to, um, there's assistance out there," Chiarello said of her conversation with Romney. "He said, go home and call 211." That's a public service number offered in many states.
Of course, if someone has lost their home, telling them to "go home and call 211" isn't exactly a compelling suggestion since most of us don't have multiple homes. Then again, given Romney's general worldview, what Chiarello should have done is pick wealthier parents.
But there was something else that seemed relevant about Romney's New Orleans visit. Jindal told reporters late last week that he's hoping for federal aid to bolster the state's levee system. Are those investments a Romney administration is prepared to make?
The candidate didn't say.
Romney was silent on whether, as president, he would support paying for such an expansion. Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, has proposed eliminating $10 billion a year in disaster spending and requiring Congress to pay for emergencies by cutting from elsewhere in the budget.
This may not matter too much as an electoral matter -- Romney will win nearly all of the Gulf Coast states without any trouble -- but since natural disasters can happen just about anywhere, it's worth getting an answer from the Republican nominee as to where he stands on federal emergency aid.