George W. Bush admits that he "rarely" reads newspapers. This may explain
why, in a television interview regarding Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New
Orleans, Bush was able to say: "I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of
the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But those levees got breached.
And, as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded."
Watching Mr. Bush’s interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Good Morning
America, the initial response of any rational person had to be: America has
got to get a new president. How can we survive another three years of
I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of those levees?
The breach of the levees protecting New Orleans has been a serious issue for
years, and was prominently discussed not only during last year’s spate of
hurricanes, but most recently throughout Katrina’s approach.
The vulnerabilities of the levees protecting New Orleans - and Mr. Bush’s
apparent lack of knowledge concerning them - will now follow the pattern of
Iraq’s WMDs, or the Saddam-Osama connection. If the mainstream media even
bothers to challenge Mr. Bush on his assertions, we’ll no doubt hear that he was
misinformed by some underling. (Who will admit to their failure and end up with
a promotion - or the Medal of Freedom.)
The issue here, however, is not whether Mr. Bush was uninformed, or making a
misstatement, or simply lying. In fact, there are far more pressing issues to be
addressed regarding the Katrina disaster.
One issue has to do with national priorities. Consider this, from the
Washington Post (9/1/05): "Despite continuous warnings that a
catastrophic hurricane could hit New Orleans, the Bush administration and
Congress in recent years have repeatedly denied full funding for hurricane
preparation and flood control…[T]he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $27
million for this fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around
Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration countered with $3.9 million, and
Congress eventually approved $5.7 million…Because of the shortfalls, which were
caused in part by the rising costs of the war in Iraq, the corps delayed seven
contracts that including enlarging the levees, according to corps
Note those numbers again: The initial request of $27 million was countered,
by Bush’s people, with $3.9 million. The senseless war in Iraq, on the other
hand, has cost us over $200 billion, with no end in sight. Bush & Co.
will commit hundreds of billions of deficit dollars to destroy a foreign
country, but offer a pittance to protect an American city from a long-foreseen
Another issue revolves around disaster preparedness. Unlike September 11, the
approach of Hurricane Katrina offered days of preparation time. Despite Mr.
Bush’s protest, the breach of the levees was a much-anticipated threat; the
effects of that breach were well understood. And still the death toll is
reportedly in the thousands, the rescue efforts paltry, the long-term picture
grim. (A CNN headline reads: "Scene of anarchy: Despair, death pervade New
Orleans.") If you want to imagine how the much-touted Department of Homeland
Security would respond to another significant terrorist strike, just look at the
unfolding chaos in New Orleans.
Finally, there is the storm itself. Obviously, one can’t blame Mr. Bush for
the weather. However, there is increasing evidence that global warming may be
the culprit behind the spike in hurricane strength. An Associated Press report
notes, "At least one prominent study suggests that hurricanes have become
significantly stronger in the past few decades during the same period that
global average temperatures have increased." And a New York Times
editorial (9/1/05), criticizing Bush’s response to the disaster ("George W. Bush
gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday…He advised the public that
anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that
everything would work out in the end") closed on this somber note: "Complacency
will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global
warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this
administration won’t acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of
leadership are minimal."
George W. Bush did not cause the destruction of New Orleans, just as
he did not cause the 9/11 attacks. In both cases, however, he had ample
warnings that he ignored. On the other hand, he did cause the destruction
of both Iraq and the American budget.
Like Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush has been a foreseeable disaster.