". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Biden’s Maui Missteps Make More Waves for His White House

August 15, 2023

The man who’s wanted to declare a state of emergency for everything from abortion access to climate change has had shockingly little to say about the very real devastation in Maui. “We’re looking at it” was all he had to say pedaling past reporters Sunday. And that, pundits point out, was an improvement from his beach day “no comment” that outraged even his own party. “Is this the famous ‘compassion’ the media has told us about?” Congressman Bob Good (R-Va.) wondered.

While Hawaiians sort through miles of ash and rubble for the remnants of their lives, the casualties continue to climb. At least 99 dead have been recovered, as search teams struggle to cover the remaining 75% of the burn area. “Hawaii is part of the United States, right?” Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) asked rhetorically. “How could the President of the United States not have a comment on the unfolding tragedy there?”

The White House tried to tamp down criticism of their boss by pointing the finger at Republicans for refusing to deal with global warming. When that didn’t work, Biden broke his silence by posting that Lahaina families would be eligible for a “one-time $700 payment per household” in relief. That only infuriated people more. “Insulting,” pundits said, pointing to the billions of dollars in aid that taxpayers are shipping overseas.

“Hawaii and the people of Hawaii are far more important than places like Ukraine,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) insisted. “When you have a president that has advocated for over $100 billion going to a foreign country that really we have no place investing in while actively ignoring what is happening in Hawaii and really helping Hawaii, I think that tells you exactly what you need to know about this president.”

On Tuesday, the president took time out of a stop in Milwaukee to address the crisis from the podium. “My wife, Jill, and I are going to travel to Hawaii as soon as we can,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been talking to the governor about, but I don’t want to get in the way.” Whether his belated involvement will spare him the “Katrina moment” strategists are worried about remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Maui, locals are struggling to come to grips with the losses. Kim Ball, president of High Tech Maui and Maui Sports Foundation, told “Washington Watch” guest host and former Congressman Jody Hice that he was taking his wife to the airport for a trip to Oregon when he first heard about the fires. “My youngest son’s a teacher at Lahaina Intermediate School, and he said they lost power” and were forced to close. The winds started “whipping 60 miles an hour” or more, “roofs in our neighborhood were blowing off,” Ball said.

“I got a call from my son later that the smoke was really bad. And finally, he ended up leaving — and just in the nick of time. And then he was able to go and save our dogs. And then, of course, we didn’t know what happened because all the cell towers were down. So I stayed at my brother’s house that night, and the next morning I got in line to go back to Lahaina. And my other son had taken the back way in, and he hiked five miles to where our houses were. And he goes, ‘Dad, there’s nothing ...’”

Like so many people in Lahaina, Kim was in absolute shock. He turned around and left. But even in the midst of so much loss, he says it’s been miraculous to witness the local community and businesses chipping in. “[M]y coworkers at High Tech Surf Sports, they took the bull by the horns, and they went on social media right away. And they started collecting food, water, blankets. And we had, I think that first day, 20 truckloads of goods that were delivered. … [A] lot of supplies have come to west Maui,” he reported.

“We’re in the surf business, and we work with a lot of surf vendors. They’ve sent us clothing, backpacks, that sort of thing. So we’re delivering those. And as we get product in, we’re getting product out to people that need it. I mean, as you know, people have lost everything. So, yeah, we’re trying to do things that way.”

With the roads closed, people started loading up boats and jet skis with supplies and sailing them to the area. “I mean, the outpouring has been unreal. … That’s Hawaiian style,” he insisted. “There’s story after story of people going out of their way to open their homes.”

And more help is on the way. Samaritan’s Purse announced that it had airlifted 17 tons of “emergency relief equipment, tools, and several volunteers” on a cargo plane.

But the impact of the fires will be felt for years, Kim lamented. “We lost the elementary school where my boys went to school. We lost the Catholic grade school [first] through eighth grade. And people are displaced. There’s 10, 12, 15 people living in a residence. And what are those kids going to do? They’re going to go to different schools on Maui, and so, we’re going to have a whole, dichotomy there [with] increased classroom size. … My son was a teacher [and] lost his home. So it’s just a domino effect. One thing affects another. So I think that’s [the] devastating thing right now.”

As Jason Kimak of Samaritan’s Purse warned on Tuesday’s “Washington Watch,” “The situation on the ground is dire. It’s bad. A lot of emergency management is still looking for those who are missing. And it’s just heartbreaking to hear the stories of people who have lost loved ones and those who had to escape narrowly and those who are living in shelters right now because they don’t have a home anymore. … As I’m seeing the pictures now going through, it’s just terrible to watch as there’s so many people who are displaced.”

Sifting through the ashes is “a very difficult thing to do,” Kimak acknowledged. They’re looking for remains, looking for items “that are very important and precious to these families.” “It’s incredibly emotional. And we’re there for the spiritual piece as well.”

What can people do, Hice asked? “I would ask for you to pray,” Kimak urged. “That’s the number one thing. … We believe in the power of prayer. And the Lord asks us to pray. And so, we’re going to do it.”

To give to the effort or to volunteer, visit Samaritan’s Purse.

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.