President Bush’s first response to Hurricane Katrina was the same as everyone else’s: He ignored it. Hurricanes hit the Southern states all the time in the summer, knocking mobile homes off their foundations and wheel-less El Dorados off their cinderblocks. It’s not newsworthy. In fact, it’s usually funny.
But when the severity of this particular storm became apparent, Bush’s reaction was again the same as everyone else’s: He developed a worried look on his face. After that, his response was different from yours and mine. While you and I sat around lazily and looked at images of destruction on TV, Bush got on an airplane and looked at those images from several hundred feet above them. The same as watching them on TV, I guess, but in high-definition.
Once he had seen the destruction from the sky, Bush immediately swung into inaction. Despite having proven with the Terri Schiavo case that he is perfectly capable of providing swift aid to people who are already dead, Bush was curiously slow to get adequate military and medical support to the Katrina disaster zone. The official word was that the roads were impassable — but Harry Connick Jr. was able to get to there, so why not the National Guard? (And why Harry Connick Jr.? Hadn’t those people suffered enough?)
The Department of Homeland Security, which Bush formed after 9/11 and into which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was folded, was slow, too. By all appearances, Homeland Security has been so focused on possible terrorist attacks that they forgot all about nature, and what a b-word she can be.
In Bush’s defense, we were all caught a little off-guard. As I mentioned, hardly a week goes by in the summer that some part of the South isn’t hit by a hurricane. It’s usually bad in one relatively small area, and FEMA and the Red Cross can handle it. Katrina was different, though. The hurricane itself was a doozy, but the breaching of New Orleans’ levees essentially added a second disaster on top of it. Maybe we can understand why, at first glance, the impact of the whole thing failed to register with the president. It’s so huge as to be incomprehensible. And though there are some who would put a joke here about how a lot of things are incomprehensible to President Bush, I am not one of them. (Not today, anyway.)
So that’s how Bush responded. Other people figured prominently, too, though. How did everyone else react?
Liberals: Blame Bush for not reacting sooner.
Ultra-liberals: Blame Bush for the hurricane itself.
Conservatives: Dance around for a while trying to figure out how everything Bush did or didn’t do was exactly right (also known as the Doctrine of Presidential Infallibility).
Ultra-conservatives: Blame it on our nation’s too-loose borders. (Who let this “Katrina” in the country in the first place?)
People named Katrina: Despair at being forever tainted, like people whose birthdays are Sept. 11.
’80s pop band Katrina & the Waves: Feel guilty about renewed prominence in people’s minds; plan reunion tour.
National Hurricane Center: Elect to start naming hurricanes after terrorists instead of regular people. (Next up: Hurricane Saddam; Hurricane al-Qaeda; Hurricane Pat Robertson.)
Whoever killed that Natalee girl in Aruba: Breathe sigh of relief that CNN has finally stopped covering that story 24/7.
Amidst all the urgent news, there were also some odd announcements, like the one that legendary blues singer Fats Domino, a New Orleans resident, had not been heard from and was feared dead. Later, this story was updated to indicate he was fine. WHEW. I know I slept a little easier that night, knowing Fats Domino was OK. To lose thousands of regular people is one thing, but if we’d had to deal with the loss of Fats Domino on top of all that … well, it might have been too much for this burdened nation to bear.
We also had The Washington Post reporting that “General Motors yesterday (Sept. 1) was already blaming Katrina in part for a 16 percent drop in sales in August,” even though Katrina didn’t strike until Aug. 29. Apparently General Motors usually does 16 percent of its business on the last days of the month, which is pretty procrastinatey of them. No wonder Japan’s got us beat.
Then there was the story in Salt Lake City’s Deseret Morning News about Katrina refugees being sent all over the country. “About 50 people were loaded onto a plane late Saturday, but when told they were going to Salt Lake City, nearly 20 people got off,” the story says, indicating another black eye for Utah, in that people would rather be homeless than go there.
And don’t forget the insane idiots! They emerge after a disaster like spiders out of an old sofa. Just after the hurricane, Columbia Christians for Life declared Katrina to be God’s method of destroying New Orleans’ five abortion clinics — which, if true, means God has gotten extremely sloppy in His old age, leveling hundreds of square miles of land when He only meant to hit five specific buildings. Since I have a good deal of faith in God’s aim, I have my doubts concerning Columbia Christians for Life’s explanation of the hurricane.
That is, I HAD my doubts, until I read their evidence. The group pointed out that a particular satellite photo of Katrina looks a lot like a picture of a baby in a womb. That’s all the convincing I needed, and if that isn’t enough for you, then it probably means you’re evil and sometimes you perform abortions just for fun.
There is surely a lot of blame to go around. Local and state officials should have had a better plan in place. Louisiana shouldn’t have wasted its federal levee-reinforcing dollars on candy and gum. Seeing that the local agencies had blown it, Bush should have ensured that his staff, including the Department of Homeland Security, sent help sooner. People who had the means to evacuate should have done so when they were told to. All those Southerners shouldn’t have lived so close to those abortion clinics. Everyone’s at fault somehow. Everyone except you and me, that is. And while we’re being smug in that knowledge, let’s all send a few dollars to the Red Cross, OK?
It had been a difficult couple weeks for this country, and everyone with an Internet connection had already said plenty about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Since I didn't have a lot new to say about it, I went the other route, i.e., the one where I look for humorous angles.
It's interesting, by the way, that I included ultra-liberals blaming Bush for the hurricane itself as a joke, when in fact some people actually did that. They say his refusal to deal with global warming has contributed to the increase in hurricanes. Maybe such a thing is actually true, but look how funny it sounds: People are blaming Bush FOR THE WEATHER. I wouldn't want to be that guy. In general, actually, but especially not during a crisis.