As rare a thing as it is for me to post a new blog these days, I am hesitant to use this time to defend Barack Obama. Not because I don’t still support him, but because one of the things that consistently tires me these days is the pointless back and forth of political gamesmanship. Still it seems worth pointing out that the phrase “Obama’s Katrina” is not new to the Gulf Oil crisis: it was also used during the HCR debates and the still-ongoing financial crisis. I’m sure I’m missing others. In fact, Republicans have been looking for the second wrong which will make everything right every single day since the day the levees broke.
But on that subject of Obama’s Katrina, I’d like any reader of this post to consider the following equation: millions of lives in danger plus billions of dollars in real wealth under water plus hundreds of years of shared heritage destroyed IS EQUIVALENT TO the potential destruction of an entire continental ecosystem plus billions in real property damage IS EQUIVALENT TO.. health care reform.
I’m sure that, once you’ve simplified that equation, the answer is that x = naked, cynical and unadulterated politics. Human lives, money, history and the environment are all variables to be balanced and removed from the equation. Whether you or your grandma are to be put down by the government, the hospital or Glaxo Smith-Klein is irrelevant. The only factor that matters for those who would make the comparison between these three things is politics.
There is, however, one thing about the comparison which is not political and which makes that comparison very hard to reconcile. Clearly, there is a hunger out there for more involvement from the Obama Administration and the President himself on this crisis. Even staunch Conservatives of the non-politician variety are calling for the military to get involved (last I heard, those folks were pretty damned busy fighting elective wars, just like in Katrina). And that’s largely because the news we’re hearing is setting us on edge. News which includes:
- Satellite pictures from NASA
- Predictions and research from NOAA
- Regular updates from Coast Guard officers on the scene
- News of criminal investigations by the AG.
Have we forgotten the utter silence of the Bush Administration? The problem in Katrina wasn’t that a natural disaster occurred and not enough was done. The problem was that a natural disaster occurred and damned-near nothing was done. We didn’t even know what was going on because there was so little reporting from Federal agencies who were doing nothing. Instead of NASA images, we got scattered reports of people going off their meds or detoxing and walking around with guns (all false, as it turned out). We had to have Anderson Cooper get up to his waist in flood water before we discovered a damned thing.
And this from the government that was all-too interested in involving itself in foreign affairs, no matter how great or small. This from the government that preached to the world about the value of Democracy and the superiority of freedom. This from the president who declared his intention to spread Democracy throughout the world in the SOTU speech. If Obama is “President Spock,” (how loath I am to link to that woman) then he is victim of the very same personality that got him elected to the Presidency in the first place. It is at least consistent. But the shocking lack of action from President Bush and his legendarily-efficient political cabinet was a gaping hole in his personality – one where his Shining Knight image from 911 used to be. That hole left a vacuum to be filled with all the worst opinions of and prejudices against Republicans.
In a list of things damaged by either Katrina or the Gulf oil spill, presidential political capital aught to be filtered to the bottom. But no matter how much some may wish it otherwise, this disaster will never be as damaging to our current president as the incompetence was to our last one.