President plans visit to Moore
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will visit Oklahoma on Sunday to talk to victims of this week's deadly storms and thank the people who worked on rescue and recovery efforts.
The White House provided no details Wednesday about the president's itinerary, so it wasn't known whether he would attend the memorial service to be held at the First Baptist Church in Moore. Gov. Mary Fallin announced the service Wednesday. Fallin said, “The state of Oklahoma is experiencing an unimaginable tragedy, but we know we will recover and emerge stronger.
“As we work to rebuild, we appreciate President Barack Obama's kind words, compassion and his commitment to aid in the recovery effort.”
Obama will be making the second trip of his presidency to Oklahoma; he gave a speech in Cushing in March 2012 about his energy plan.
Since Monday, the president has been in regular contact with members of his administration and state and local officials. He called Fallin, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore.
And he sent Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to the state. By Wednesday, more than 400 FEMA personnel were in Oklahoma assessing damage and helping people sign up for assistance.
Cole said Wednesday that “the federal response has been exceptional so far.” Cole said Obama told him to call him directly if there were any problems “and we'll get it fixed.”
Obama has pledged that the state will receive all the federal resources necessary to clean up and rebuild, and he signed a major disaster declaration early Tuesday to get the process started.
“The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes. … There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community,” Obama said Tuesday.
Congress approved legislation earlier this year to replenish the disaster fund controlled by FEMA, and White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week that the fund is flush enough for now.
Former President Bill Clinton headed to the state the weekend after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and again for the anniversary in 1996; Clinton also made a post-tornado visit, in 1999, to Del City.
In 2001, then-President George W. Bush attended the dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Chris Casteel, Washington Bureau