Project 21 New Visions

 

Kevin Martin

Hurricane Katrina Hypocrisy


by Kevin Martin (bio)

Since Hurricane Katrina, liberal critics have hung the plight of New Orleans around the neck of former President Bush like an albatross.

These critics relentlessly hounded the Bush Administration for its "inadequate" response to Katrina.  So, now that many of these critics run the federal government, one can expect natural disasters to be handled with prompt and effective action, right?

No so fast.

That opportunity came and went.  The Obama Administration was found to be lacking.

When a brutal ice storm crippled several Midwestern states, particularly Kentucky and Arkansas, in January it took the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) several days to show up.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands were without power and dozens died.

Why was President Obama sitting in the White House watching the Super Bowl while people suffered?  Why did he campaign around the country for the economic "stimulus" plan rather than personally help lead relief efforts on the scene of the crisis as was expected of Bush?

During the presidential election campaign, then-candidate Obama belabored the need for a president to multi-task effectively.  So why was President Obama sneaking out of the White House to read to D.C. schoolchildren as the Midwest froze?  That's exactly what Bush was chastised for doing on 9/11.

FEMA is still operating under the leadership of an acting director.  It's already inadequately managed the ice storm.  Alaska's Mount Redoubt is now threatening to erupt, which presents a risk to the city of Anchorage.

Where's the leadership? 

While Alaskans may be on their own due to an ineffective FEMA, they can at least have solace that the government will have enough money to watch it happen.  The stimulus bill contained $140 million for "volcano monitoring."

Speaking of stimulus funds, there was nothing specifically in the stimulus bill for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.  Obama also didn't utter the names Katrina, Rita or Ike during his recent address to Congress.  It marked a change in the demeanor of some politicians, as Ben Evans of the Associated Press pointed out:

Just last summer, Democrats accused Bush of putting Iraq before New Orleans when he sought to block Gulf Coast reconstruction money from a $162 billion war spending bill.  Bush was pilloried for not mentioning the disaster in back-to-back State of the Union addresses.

Obama's defenders now say the stimulus contained no Katrina recovery funds because allocated money is still not spent.  This argument, however, was unacceptable when Bush made it.

While speaking to flood victims in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last July, then-candidate Obama said he wanted the federal government to be "a strong, swift, effective partner" with state agencies in handling disasters.  He talked a good game, but seems to have fumbled the ball.

Perhaps President Obama deserves the Kanye West treatment.  Remember West's assertion after Katrina: "George Bush doesn't care about black people!"  Maybe Obama doesn't care about the overwhelmingly-white states of Kentucky, Arkansas and Alaska.  Or maybe it is because they didn't vote for him last November.

New Orleans is changing, too, as voters there just kicked out incumbent black congressman William Jefferson (D) for Vietnamese-American Joseph Cao (R) in a special run-off election.

Now that there is a liberal president and Congress, it seems acceptable for FEMA to show up a week late and many dollars short.  In this case, it even came bearing Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) possibly tainted with salmonella-ridden peanut butter.

Political allies and admirers in the media have lowered the bar for Obama.  They've given him a pass at the expense of the law-abiding and tax-paying residents of the Midwest.

The only saving grace was that the strong-willed people of that region banded together to help themselves.  While Obama enjoyed the limelight, these people checked in on each other, delivered supplies to the needy and worked with the National Guard to prevent further damage.  They were the true heroes - not the government.

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Kevin L. Martin is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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