President Obama Flies Over Flood Disaster in Rhode Island to Talk About How His Health Care Overhaul Will Help Struggling Americans

By Penny Starr and Fred Lucas | April 1, 2010 | 4:51 PM EDT

President Barack Obama speaks on health insurance reform, Thursday, April 1, 2010, at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(Editor's note: reported at 5:34PM EDT that President Obama had made an unannounced visit to Framingham, Mass., to discuss the flooding in New England with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. He was in Massachusetts to attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.)

-- President Barack Obama was scheduled to fly past flood-ravaged Rhode Island aboard Air Force One twice on Thursday as he traveled to Maine to give an afternoon speech lauding his health care bill, then to Boston for an evening fundraiser for the Democratic Party, and then back to Washington, D.C. late Thursday night.
Spokespersons for the Obama administration did not respond to’s questions about the disaster, including why the president didn’t visit R.I., if he planned to do so in the near future and whether he could survey any of the extensive destruction caused by what the state’s governor is calling the worse flooding in 200 years.
Neither White House spokesman Nick Shapiro nor White House press office staffer Mora Mack responded to the questions asked via repeated e-mails.
According to the White House, the president’s schedule for Thursday did not include a visit to Rhode Island, although he will fly over or near the state twice on Thursday.
President Barack Obama departed from Andrews Air Force Base this afternoon to fly to Portsmouth, N.H. From there, Obama traveled to Portland, Maine, to deliver a speech at the Portland Expo Center about his health care overhaul law.
Obama was scheduled to leave Portland for an early evening fundraising reception for the Democratic National Committee and then a DNC dinner at the Boston Opera House.
Later, Thursday night he was scheduled to return to Washington, D.C.--without any scheduled stop in Rhode Island.
On March 30, Obama signed an emergency declaration for Rhode Island after Gov. Don Carcieri requested the move, putting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials in place to work with state and local responders, and to allow individuals and businesses to apply for federal funds for losses and damages.
In addition to rivers overflowing their banks, state officials in R.I. are worried about the stress being placed on old dams. They are also worried about an environmental catastrophe because of raw sewage flowing from flooded treatment plants into Narragansett Bay.
The National Weather Service kept a flood warning in place on Thursday in R.I., although more rain was not in the forecast.

President Barack Obama at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine, April 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

 In his speech in Maine, Obama did not mention the hardship faced by many of Rhode Island’s 1 million residents, but he did claim his health care law will help “struggling” small business owners “here in Maine and across America.”  

“When I came here during the campaign, I made a promise,” Obama said as he continues his ongoing campaign-style stumping for health care.  “It wasn’t just a promise about any one issue.  It was a promise that our government would once again be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the middle-class. 

"It was a promise that Washington would concern itself not just with the next election, but with the next generation of Americans."
“Keeping that promise is even more critical at a time when so many families and small business owners are still struggling here in Maine and across America,” Obama said.