LAHAINA, Hawaii – President Biden was greeted with middle fingers, chants of protest and signs reading “no comment” on Monday when he arrived in Maui to tour wildfire damage after repeatedly declining to comment last week about the tragedy that killed at least 114 people.
A group of several dozen residents of burned-out West Maui shouted at Biden’s motorcade shortly after noon local time as it left Kapalua’s small airport en route to the hardest-hit areas of historic Lahaina , which was destroyed on August 8.
“Go home Joe!” locals chanted as Biden drove by, moments before the president read a scripted speech touting the federal response, despite criticism from residents who say not enough help has been offered.
The 80-year-old commander-in-chief has come under intense criticism, even from fellow Democrats, for being aloof in the wake of America’s deadliest wildfires in more than a century.
As he drove into downtown Lahaina, Biden passed signs that read “NO COMMENT,” “REALLY $7?,” “ACTION SPEAKS THAN WORDS” and “FJB,” as well as at least two flags promoting the candidacy of former President Donald in 2024. Trump.
“Where has the president been?” asked Dennis Mullen, 58, of nearby Kahana, who said the airport that hosts the presidential helicopter has not been used much to deliver needed supplies.
“Any number of military planes, jets and helicopters could have flown here. To shut down a city that had just been devastated was ridiculous. The runway had no craters,” Mullen told The Post.
Meanwhile, Biden got the full White House treatment, delivering remarks from a presidential-stamped lectern amid the apocalyptic landscape following this month’s deadly wildfires.
The president was also given a small wooden table for his precious water bottle as he spoke about the federal government’s response to the devastation, with the ashes of destroyed buildings visible behind the scene.
“On the west side of Maui, where neighborhoods had burned, there was a desperate need and no one came to help.”
As the scale of fatalities became apparent, Biden shocked and outraged Hawaiians saying “No comments” when asked about the Aug. 13 disaster after relaxing on a Delaware beach.
“I campaigned for you” angered former Hawaii legislator Kaniela Ing on social networks “Now, when I lose dozens of my friends, relatives and neighbors. This?”
Biden, who is seeking a second term in next year’s election, again declined to comment Thursday when asked by a reporter to discuss his planned trip to Maui, saying: “No, not now.”
Dean Fuchs, 59, of the east Maui town of Kihei, carried a Hawaiian state flag upside down as Biden’s motorcade passed.
“The president is a little late, don’t you think?” Fuchs told The Post.
“When he was asked about the disaster in Maui and he said ‘no comment,’ it was disrespectful to the people of Maui who have lost so much,” he added.
“We are here to send the president a message that we are displeased with the federal response.”
Biden supporter Barry Brown, 76, acknowledged the federal FEMA response was slow, but said he took the president at his word that Washington will support Maui’s rebuilding.
“The president’s visit gives us hope. It is important that you come here. I understand why he couldn’t come earlier because it’s still chaotic here,” Brown said.
“I’m glad he’s here. He’s my president. I take him at his word that he’ll stay with us until the job is done, which will probably take five to ten years to rebuild our beloved Lahaina.
Biden traveled to the island from Nevada, taking a week-long break vacationing at a billionaire Democrat’s Lake Tahoe mansion.
Upon arrival, he conducted a 20-minute aerial tour of the disaster area before meeting with emergency personnel and survivors.
“To the people of Hawaii, we are with you as long as it takes, I promise,” Biden said in his remarks, later adding, “May God bless all of those that we have lost, may God find those that we have lost. you haven’t made up your mind yet, and God bless you all.”
The president mispronounced the name of one of Hawaii’s senators during his remarks, calling Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) by the last name “Shants,” a week after the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. has spoiled both names of the Aloha State Senators and misguided Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono.
The White House authorized a relief grant of $700 per household to survivors, but even that has been criticized for stinginess relative to spending on other priorities, including $113 billion in funding since past for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, with Biden calling 20.6 billion more this month
U.S. presidents are expected to offer words of support and comfort during tragedies, and the perception that they do not compensate victims can have political consequences, as happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when President George W. Bush faced scathing criticism for praising FEMA’s response despite the public outcry. indignation
Biden broke his silence on the staggering loss of life in an economy-focused speech in Milwaukee on Tuesday, but at one point seemed to forget the name “Maui” and referred to the island as “the one you see on TV all the time”.
He also appeared to make a lame attempt to come around, saying, “I apologize because I try so hard to keep my speeches to 15-18 minutes, but I have to talk a little bit about Hawaii.”