President Bush, who on Thursday pledged federal aid to rebuild the bridge, will visit the disaster site Saturday. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said $5 million was being made available immediately to pay for traffic flow adjustments and debris removal.
Earlier today, NPR also reported that Mrs. Bush will visit the site of the bridge collapse during a previously scheduled visit to the Twin Cities.
Senators from MN also made a point to visit the collapse site.
I am not criticizing the President here. Any President would likely do this. And it's stupid.
During a difficult and complex recovery and investigation effort, the people at the site now have their work disrupted by Secret Service and their time taken up by VIPs who want to show how much they care.
Even during the Katrina operation, Bush was criticized for not personally going to New Orleans soon enough. While there is plenty to criticize in the Katrina disaster, having the President physically stay away is probably one of the best decisions the administration made.
For some reason, we value sympathy and that physical presence of our VIPs over the smooth and quick execution of a rescue or recovery operation.
Perhaps it's our cultural celebration of victimhood that drives these visits.
And maybe I am being insensitive to the needs of the families to see VIPs to know the country cares.
But really, the President, Mrs. Bush, the Senators, and the other VIPs don't contribute anything by physically going to the site. Their staffs and security can only cause disruption. Unless they are putting on dive suits for a full day shift in the river, they should just stay away.