After six days overseas focusing on foreign policy, President Obama returns home Saturday evening and turns to domestic issues starting Sunday with a quick trip to Joplin, Missouri, to meet with those affected by last week’s major tornado.
A Joplin city official said Saturday that the death toll from the storm had risen to at least 139 people, up by 7 from the last count, the Associated Press reported. Last Sunday’s massive tornado was the most destructive since 1950. The storm packed winds of 200 mile per hour and injured more than 900 people. Its E5 rating is the highest on a scientific rating scale.
The President is slated to land Saturday just before 7 p.m. eastern time at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland concluding a 6-day European tour. His trip took him to Ireland, England, France, and Poland. While in Europe, Obama attend the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations in Deauville, France.
Mr. Obama’s last stop was Poland where he hailed that nation for demonstrating “how a proud and determined and enthusiastic people can overcome extraordinary challenges and build a democracy.” The Associated Press said the President appeared tired and even publicly counted down the days at one point in the trip.
After a night’s rest, the president will get back on Air Force One Sunday for the trip to Joplin. While there, he will speak at a Joplin Community Memorial Service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. Governor Jay Nixon will also speak at the service. "On Sunday, all Missourians will pause to morn for those killed by this devastating storm, and to stand together as we begin the process of rebuilding and recovery,” the Governor said in a statement.
The White House said President Obama will tour the storm damage, thank first responders, and participate in meetings between local and state officials and FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. Then he will fly back to Washington.
Monday morning, the President will appear in the Rose Garden to announce his choice to replace Admiral Mike Mullen as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military officer. Admiral Mullen’s term as Chairman concludes at the end of September.
The White House announced Monday’s ceremony as the president flew back to the US from Poland. The change is part of a major reshuffling of the Obama administration’s national security team. Robert Gates is leaving as Defense Secretary and being replaced by Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta. Panetta, in turn, will be succeeded at the CIA by General David Petraeus, now leading the US war effort in Afghanistan.
In addition to dealing with natural disasters and national security staffing issues, the President also faces what appear to be increasingly energized efforts by Republican candidates who wish to replace him. Conservative favorite Sarah Palin is conducting a campaign-style bus tour this weekend along the East Coast. Texas Governor Rick Perry said Friday he would consider a run for the White House. And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is making a trip to New Hampshire next week.