What did Barack Obama Say? Wildfires on Maui have killed at least 115 people and left upwards of 400 people unaccounted for.
Footage of people fleeing the fires depicted a hellish scene, inspiring an outpouring of sympathy from the mainland.
But in the weeks since the blaze, the formal response has left some wanting – including former President Barack Obama, who recycled one of his old and most remembered – but some would say polarizing – quotes to criticize the effort.
Barack Obama’s Tough Comments: Prayers are ‘Not Enough’
Obama responded to the wildfires with a tough video posted to X (formerly Twitter). Here’s what the former president had to say:
“As someone who grew up in Hawaii, someone who has taken my family to enjoy the incredible beauty of that island and the hospitality of the people of Lahaina, we now find ourselves mourning the lives that are lost. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that have lost so much.”
Barack Obama continued, urging people to do more.
“The thing about it is though, thoughts and prayers in a moment like this are not enough. We have to step up. And we have to help those families, and we have to help Lahaina rebuild. If all of us – the Ohana – pull together and do as much as we can to give back to an island a town and people who have given us so much, I’m absolutely confident that Lahaina and Maui and those families are going to be able to rebuild.”
Obama’s encouragement, of Americans to go beyond thoughts and prayers, is a direct reference to a viral and tough comment he made in 2015 after another mass shooting. “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Obama said, emphasizing that the country needed tougher gun laws.
“Each time this happens, I’m going to bring this up,” Barack Obama said at the time. “Each time this happens, I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.”
Thoughts and Prayers on Maui
Obama’s Maui comments aren’t suggesting that any laws be changed, rather just that money be donated.
The Maui comments offer a less profound use of Obama’s thoughts and prayers phrase as the Maui comments are ultimately a financial solicitation.
A worthy financial solicitation, but still a financial solicitation. Obama even suggests a list of organizations that concerned citizens can donate to.
What’s curious about Obama’s solicitation is that there’s an implicit criticism in there, a suggestion that people aren’t doing enough. But Obama makes no mention of the federal response, or of President Biden’s response – each of which have been criticized.
“George Bush as mauled for merely flying over New Orleans as citizens drowned during Katrina. Ted Cruz was mocked in a week-long news cycle for leaving Texas during its electricity crisis. Not only hasn’t Biden visited Maui, but twice vacationed and has barely spoken on it,” Glenn Greenwald wrote.
Fair point. Biden has not been subject to the mass criticism that Bush or Cruz endured despite offering a similar response. Obama’s video, which doesn’t address the federal response and instead urges citizens to donate, serves as further proof that Biden’s Maui response has flown under the radar (at least as far as the mainstream media is concerned).
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
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