“New Orleans was Iraq redux with an all-American cast.”

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Bush Administration, corruption, Hurricanes

“We will stay until the job is done,” President Bush said today about the Gulf Coast, which is the same thing he said earlier this week about Iraq. But isn’t it odd that he speaks about a region of the U.S. the same way he speaks about a foreign country? “We” will “stay” in the Gulf Coast until the job is done? The Gulf Coast is home; it’s us. We’re staying whether the “job” gets done or not.

[Update: Josh Marshall noticed the same thing

Commenting on Katrina recovery Saturday in his weekly radio address, the President sounded as if he were reading from one of his Iraq speeches by mistake: “We will stay until the job is done.” Well, it’s not as if the federal government can hightail it out of Louisiana or Mississippi. Where would it go exactly?

The further implication of the President’s remarks is that the federal government was not present before Katrina struck, an absurd and offensive suggestion. New Orleans would not have existed as a modern city if not for the Army Corps of Engineers. The President would have us believe that the federal government came to the rescue after this natural disaster, albeit a bit late. In fact, the Corps and decades of federal flood control policy played a pivotal role in what was a manmade disaster in New Orleans–the failure of the levee system. (No one has done a better job of banging this drum than Harry Shearer, the actor, comedian, author, media critic, and sometime journalist.)

It was a really weird thing to say, even for Bush.]

Frank Rich, behind the New York Times subscription firewall [Update: Here’s the column outside the firewall.]

The ineptitude bared by the storm — no planning for a widely predicted catastrophe, no attempt to secure a city besieged by looting, no strategy for anything except spin — is indelible. New Orleans was Iraq redux with an all-American cast. The discrepancy between Mr. Bush’s “heckuva job” shtick and the reality on the ground induced a Cronkite-in-Vietnam epiphany for news anchors. At long last they and the country demanded answers to the questions about the administration’s competence that had been soft-pedaled two years earlier when the war first went south.

And the same federal contractors that soaked up billions in tax dollars to not reconstruct Iraq are getting more billions to not reconstruct the Gulf Coast.

A year after the storm, the reconstruction of New Orleans echoes our reconstruction of Baghdad. A “truth squad” of House Democrats has cataloged the “waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement” in $8.75 billion worth of contracts, most of which were awarded noncompetitively. Only 60 percent of the city has electricity. Half of the hospitals and three-quarters of the child-care centers remain closed. Violent crime is on the rise. Less than half of the population has returned.

Let the cameras roll:

What’s amazing on Katrina’s first anniversary is how little Mr. Bush seems aware of this change in the political weather. He’s still in a bubble. At last week’s White House press conference, he sounded as petulant as Tom Cruise on the “Today” show when Matt Lauer challenged him about his boorish criticism of Brooke Shields. Asked what Iraq had to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, Mr. Bush testily responded, “Nothing,” adding that “nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks.” Like the emasculated movie star, the president is still so infatuated with his own myth that he believes the public will buy such nonsense. …

… with no plan for salvaging either of the catastrophes on his watch, this president can no sooner recover his credibility by putting on an elaborate show of sermonizing and spin this week than Mr. Cruise could levitate his image by jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch. While the White House’s latest screenplay may have been conceived as “Mission Accomplished II,” what we’re likely to see play out in New Orleans won’t even be a patch on “Mission: Impossible III.”

Ann M. Simmons, Richard Fausset and Stephen Braun write for the Los Angeles Times that the Katrina disaster isn’t something that happened a year ago; it is ongoing.

Despite four emergency spending bills passed by Congress to provide more than $110 billion in aid, federal agencies have spent only $44 billion. Even as President Bush insisted last week that “$110 billion is a strong commitment,” he conceded that the recovery effort was plagued with “bureaucratic hurdles.”

The scale of the catastrophe continues to overwhelm the government’s capacity to respond. Aid agencies only now are contending with the long-term needs of hundreds of thousands of evacuees and with the landscape of shattered houses and public infrastructure that will take years to restore.

Many homeowners and business owners have waited impatiently for promised grants and loans as federal and state officials have spent months dickering over how much and where to spend aid — and officials remain at odds over who bears the blame for the inconsistent flow of Katrina aid. …

… But after a year of fielding constituents’ pleas for help, U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., said, “We’re seeing the same thing going on with the recovery as we did with the immediate response. We’re going through another unfolding disaster.”

Get this:

Until last week, when the White House Office of Management and Budget released an agencywide breakdown of recovery spending, the administration had not provided a clear overview of how the money was being doled out. For much of the year, elected officials, government auditors and outside experts had to rely on fragmentary indicators of the pace of recovery spending, which handicapped efforts to monitor the process.

“It’s not only that we don’t know what’s been spent. We haven’t even had an accurate description of what ‘spent’ means,” said Rob Nabors, Democratic staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. “They talk about ‘commitments’ and ‘obligations’ — they’ve invented new terms for not spending money.”

Somebody better watch ’em to be sure Katrina money isn’t ending up in the Middle East somewhere.

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11 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Gordon  •  Aug 27, 2006 @8:13 am

    It’s not “incompetence”. It’s the natural consequence of Conservatism.

    I know many get irritated by Lakoff, but “Whose Freedom” makes some very good points. Let’s not let Conservatism off the hook by making this an issue of competence. And whether or not Bush is a “true” conservative doesn’t really matter. If your meaning of “freedom” is “I can do whatever the hell I want with MY property”, then, like Bush, you will trash the commons (see Coulter’s comments on “man’s dominion”). If you respect the commons, then you’re not a conservative.

    Post-Bush, Conservatism is as dead as Communism post-Stalin.

    From the practical perspective: if the Dems take both Senate and House in 06, then in 08 a Republican will take the Presidency – it will be at least a generation before voters allow one-party control (well, if voters actually still have anything to do with it, of course). Saying “incompetence” will mean it’s McCain. Blaming Conservatism should help get something more moderate.

  2. maha  •  Aug 27, 2006 @9:05 am

    Gordon — good point.

  3. SteveG  •  Aug 27, 2006 @10:35 am

    “The Gulf Coast is home; it’s us.” Yeah, kind of like sitting in your living room saying your are homesick.

    As much as they try to hype 9/11, Katrina will have been the decisive event in the Bush presidency. The flood from broken levees washed away the facade. Bush’s Watergate will have been the failure of actual gates for water.

  4. Swami  •  Aug 27, 2006 @12:17 pm

    The flood from broken levees washed away the facade

    Exactly!…the word that stands out to me is..unprepaired. Bush was unprepaired for 9/11, Katrina ,and also Iraq. This adminisrtation is a bunch of flunkies that have failed terribly in leadership. If Americans can’t see the obvious now, they’ll never see it. The whole mindset is Washington has to be replaced

  5. Donna  •  Aug 27, 2006 @1:53 pm

    Swami, the Bush team is prepared, not to lead the country, but to respond to all events by robbing as much as possible of America’s soul, America’s wealth, America’s future— robbery for the exclusive benefit of those in Bush’s support circle of like-minded vultures.
    Remember Bush’s new motto: crisis for the common folk is opportunity for the connected.

  6. justme  •  Aug 27, 2006 @2:37 pm

    Do you recall when the fine folks at bushco took money that congress had set aside for afghanistan and used it to start funding Iraq before congress ever decided there would be a war in Iraq?Perhaps the money is being used to prepare for Iran.After all bush is the decider.

    Whats sad about katrina and 911 also are the cold hard way folks here in the “bible belt” look at the victims.People blame New Orleans residents for their own problems and they already threw money at the situation so they believe it is solved.There is no compassion for NO folks here what-so-ever.I can’t even repeat most of what folks here say and I try to recall what the folks of New Orleans did before Katrina, to earn so much hate.Everyone who isn’t looking for a government handout is looting to hear folks here talk…they are hated for not leaving(no one cares they didn’t have the way to do so), they are hated for not just going away and for needing help to rebuild their lives.They are hated for”not paying their bills” for the past year,never mind their jobs and homes were washed away.The right wing spin machine has done an outstanding job of painting NO residents as con artists who deserve what they got.This makes me sick because in 1993 Iowa was close to being NO….that was the year of flooding unlike any we have ever seen.I lived in Kansas City at the time but I know Iowa had it worse than we did in Kansas.Already they have forgotten how close we were to losing it all.In des moines their water supply was nearly destroyed when flood water contaminated the supply… they were almost 3 weeks with no water while officials tried to fix it…you would think that would have given them a taste of what NO went thru. I dare to say here in the midwest we lost billions….crops , bridges,water supplies, property..lives….Coffins popped out of the ground and some families have still never recovered the remains of loved ones whos coffins were just washed away 13 years later….I would also dare to say FEMA helped this region a lot or we still would not be back to normal and no one treated us like we were taking a hand out.No one suggested we deserved it…no one got mad at a majority of people who stayed as the flood waters rose.No one left us for days without food or expected us to make it with out supplies…help was everywhere.Men came in droves from other states to stand side by side with us and help fill sandbags..red cross stations lined the midwest…in kansas even people who took on a little water in their basements were able to get funds to replace destroyed items..in my upper crust county(Johnson) my neighbor got 20k in funds when her basement took on only 4 inches of water even though not one city block in our town flooded, yet here in the midwest they treat the folks of NO like scum for needing help.

    As for 911…..Someone has to say it…..no one has the balls….so I will say it. Folks in these parts hated “New York Liberals” as much as they hate “Hollyweirds”, so when they started this”We are all New Yorkers” it made me want to puke.The day before 911 if someone said they were taking out New York ,folks would have cheered.I recall in 04 standing in line at the market the day after the election , only to hear someone in line tell another that “New Yorkers were ungrateful bastards for not voting for bush after all he had done for them after 911″…..I had to leave my groceries and just leave the store before I snapped….

    People only “Loved New York” when it was a crisis they could leach onto.I saw the same thing during the aftermath of the california earth quakes on a much smaller scale.Nobody will dare to say it,but it is there just the same, you can smell it like rot, some sick bastards smile and think it serves you right and they see it as proof your liberal ways are wrong…society has said it is not alright to say it but it is there and it makes me wonder what happened to America.It makes me sad and ashamed.

    I guess the point I am making is that people have changed.They don’t care about how bush screwed up katrina because they don’t care about other people at all.No one seems to notice or mind how terrible we have become.The indifference to the suffering is heartbreaking….so while the picture you paint of the reality for NO and it’s residents is 100% true no one really cares but us about anyone but themselves.The last time I told someone that all the suffering makes it hard for me to sleep at night one person told me I was “silly to let all that junk bother me” and the other one gave me a look that said I was nuts and then a fast response of”Boy I have never lost a nights sleep over it!” to which I replied “I don’t doubt that”…

    Don’t hold your breath that reminding folks about NO will open anymore eyes..as much as it breaks my heart to say so, no one really cares…it’s nice to come here and see at least a few other people do, however,so thank you for that…As always Maha, you are a ray of light in a sea of despair

  7. maha  •  Aug 27, 2006 @2:53 pm

    I try to recall what the folks of New Orleans did before Katrina,

    Other than “living while black”? Maybe “living while poor,” or “living while needing stuff from the government.”

  8. Swami  •  Aug 27, 2006 @2:59 pm

    unprepaired…that’s unprepared…damned drugs.

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