KENNER, La. — President Barack Obama took a short detour from campaigning Monday to inspect the damage wrought by Hurricane Isaac last week and the government response, a stop that took on political overtones in this campaign season.
His visit, after a Labor Day rally with union supporters in Toledo, Ohio, came three days after Republican rival Mitt Romney toured the Louisiana coast Friday, a day after accepting his party's nomination in Tampa. Obama's timing was decided in consultation with local officials, White House aides said, to avoid the presidential entourage getting in the way of the cleanup.
Even as both parties jousted about their respective responses to natural disasters, Obama sounded a nonpartisan note in remarks to reporters after his tour and discussions with officials and residents.
"When disasters like this happen, we set aside whatever petty disagreements we may have," Obama said. "Nobody's a Democrat or Republican. We're all just Americans looking out for each other."
Obama toured La Place, a community in the parish of St. John the Baptist. According to the administration, post-storm flooding there was unprecedented though none had been expected, blocking evacuation routes to Interstate 10.
In brief remarks to reporters, Obama noted that the levees built after Hurricane Katrina held, leaving questions about how to prevent the kind of flooding that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.
"We're going to make sure that at the federal level we are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here, what can we do to make sure it doesn't happen again and expediting some of the decisions that may need to be made to ensure that we've got the infrastructure in place to protect people's property and to protect people's lives," he said.
In Louisiana, utilities reported more than 100,000 people were still without power. Thousands also were without power in Mississippi and Arkansas.