Katrina: Bush’s ultimate failure

I’ve had plenty of grievances with this President over the years, but I have never been as frustrated as I am with his mishandling of the aftermath of Katrina. I can see why he’d want to cut taxes for the rich while poor kids lose their Medicaid, and I can understand him wanting to write me out of the Constitution. He is, after all, Republican. But I can’t fathom why he has shirked on his duties as leader of this country.

Katrina cleared out by Monday evening, but it was 72 hours before the National Guard showed up. FEMA had been there the whole time, but it was unable to establish control. FEMA actually had to cease rescue operations for fears of their personnel’s own safety.

Then, conditions got worse. Americans were dying by the boatload. The ones who survived were living among corpses in the heat without water or food. How can this happen in America? We can drop food and medicine from a plane in Afghanistan, but all we can offer to Louisiana and Mississippi is “help is on the way”?

After finally returning to the White House on Wednesday (48 hours after Katrina), Bush sat down for an interview on Good Morning America. Never mind the way he smiled throughout the interview and never mind the flippancy with which he ducked Diane Sawyer’s tough questions: He lied. Sawyer asked what is taking so long and why weren’t we prepared: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breech of the levees.” Come again?

You don’t have to be my meteorology-major roommate to have known what a terror Katrina was going to be. All day Sunday, news stations had the same messages: “worse than Camille” and “get out of New Orleans.” They showed animated diagrams of what was going to happen when the pumps and levees failed.

Since 1998, FEMA has referred to the “filling of the bowl” as the worst-case scenario for a natural disaster to strike the United States. All it would take is a Category 3 to hit so that the western eye wall would blow Lake Pontchartrain over the levees and into the city. Bush, don’t tell me you didn’t anticipate a breech of the levees!

As for the rest of the administration, Condi reportedly saw Spamalot on Broadway Wednesday night and went shoe shopping Thursday, or at least it appeared that way. How dare she buy expensive shoes when New Orleans is underwater and southern Mississippi is wiped clean? Hundreds upon hundreds of Americans are starving in the worst natural disaster in our 229 years, and the Secretary of State is shopping?

As of Thursday night, Dick Cheney was still on vacation. Houston is turning away refugees, rats are eating dead people, and the Vice President is chillaxing under sunny skies in Wyoming?

Meanwhile, you’ve got the Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, saying that it’d be stupid to rebuild a city that’s seven feet below sea level, and the Republican National Committee sending out emails about the estate tax. Callousness beyond reproach describes how our leaders are treating these people. It’s amazing how these images of poor, black folk living in hell do not catalyze action. I am disgusted.

We are in the midst of a national emergency. Aside from the dire situation in the South, gas pumps are drying up, and our little adventure in Iraq just took a sharp right turn for the worse. We need a Roosevelt or a Kennedy to steer us through this hard time. We’ve got a Bush. And I can’t think of a single thing you or I can do to make things well besides donate to the Red Cross. Stay home from the Grove or Coli this weekend and give those 30 bucks to people who need it a hell of a lot more than you do.

Chris Fisher can be contacted at c.fisher2@umiami.edu.