President Obama spoke today at Xavier University in New Orleans to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While much of his speech was rightly dedicated to the rebirth rebuilding, and revival of New Orleans, Obama took a shot at the Bush administration, “I am proud that my FEMA Director, Craig Fugate, has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida.” Et tu, Brownie?
Obama discussed preparing for future threats to make sure that there is never another Katrina, ” Now, even as we continue our recovery efforts, we’re also focusing on preparing for future threats so that there is never another disaster like Katrina. The largest civil works project in American history is underway to build a fortified levee system. And as I — just as I pledged as a candidate, we’re going to finish this system by next year so that this city is protected against a 100-year storm. We should not be playing Russian roulette every hurricane season. And we’re also working to restore protective wetlands and natural barriers that were not only damaged by Katrina — were not just damaged by Katrina but had been rapidly disappearing for decades. ”
The President then took a shot at the prior administration’s incompetent handling of Katrina, “In Washington, we are restoring competence and accountability. I am proud that my FEMA Director, Craig Fugate, has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida. He came from Florida, a state that has known its share of hurricanes. We’ve put together a group led by Secretary Donovan and Secretary Napolitano to look at disaster recovery across the country. We’re improving coordination on the ground, and modernizing emergency communications, helping families plan for a crisis. And we’re putting in place reforms so that never again in America is somebody left behind in a disaster because they’re living with a disability or because they’re elderly or because they’re infirmed. That will not happen again. ”
On a political level, Obama’s message was clear. Unlike George W. Bush, I take disaster preparedness and recovery seriously. I appointed somebody with disaster management experience to run FEMA, not some political crony from the International Arabian Horse Association. I think this is an important message to send to the people in the Gulf whose faith in the government’s ability to respond to a natural disaster was destroyed by incompetence at the local, state, but especially at the federal level. The problem is in deeper because all Americans saw the post-Katrina ineptitude and doubted the government’s ability to respond to any disaster.
Obama already distinguished himself as the anti-Bush with his handling of the BP oil leak, but still his critics continue to push the talking point that Obama is “just like Bush.” One of the most important and Herculean tasks that Obama faces is that his administration must try to undo the damage to the American political psyche caused by eight years of Bush incompetence.
The Bush administration was one of the most inept White Houses of the last 100 years. Their handling of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina placed them in a class apart on the incompetence scale, and in an election year, where Republicans are trying to recapture the Congress based on voter anger, it is shrewd move by Obama to remind voters just how incompetent George W. Bush was, and it is this same ineptitude that the GOP is looking to restore to power this November.