On the 10th anniversary of the actual Katrina, we’re remembering the hurricane and the disaster it left in its wake. Ten years on, some rebuilding has gone on but most of it has missed the poor and black neighborhoods. Oh, sure, they’ve rebuilt Jefferson Davis’s home, but the efforts in places like the 9th Ward are lacking.
Part of Katrina’s legacy is the metaphor. Katrina stands as a symbol of government mismanagement and obliviousness. All one has to do is invoke the disaster and everyone understands what they mean by it. Katrina was, arguably, George W. Bush’s second biggest blunder (the first being ignoring warnings about 9/11), and it stuck with him for the remainder of his term.
When Barack Obama took office, pundits and commenters on the right tried desperately to pin Bush’s failure on the new President, using the verbal shorthand the whole country was familiar with. Here are some of the events they tried to make “Obama’s Katrina”:
The Paris March — A few days after the terrorist shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, world leaders met for a march through the streets of Paris. President Obama was unable to attend. This was used as an excuse by Max Boot to call it “Obama’s Katrina.”
BP Oil Spill — The worst oil spill in U.S. history began when BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico. Somehow, this became Obama’s fault, even though government agencies were dispatched immediately to do what they could to protect the coastline. Pundits like Charles Krauthammer, Karl Rove and Calvin Woodward were convinced that this was “Obama’s Katrina.”
NSA leaks — The revelation that the NSA had been gathering “metadata” on everyone — not just suspected terrorists — was greeted with outrage on both ends of the political spectrum. Though this is an issue most liberals and Democrats criticize the President over, it is not “Obama’s Katrina,” Jennifer Rubin.
Ebola — In November of 2014, Ebola made its first appearance on American soil. The media lost its collective mind, driving the story beyond its actual scope. It was, of course, “Obama’s Katrina” to many on the right.
AIG bonuses — The Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell laid the scandal over AIG bonuses 6 years ago right at Obama’s feet. He had a point, but in using “Obama’s Katrina” he lost any veracity.
Syria — The dates of both the “Syria mess” and Hurricane Katrina actually line up… almost. This is enough for Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner to tag it “Obama’s Katrina.”
The Economy — In 2009, Fox pundit James Pinkerton began an op-ed with “The economy is shaping up to be Barack Obama’s Katrina.” Flash forward to 2015. Fail.
Immigration — This one is big, according to Rick Perry, who said that Obama not appearing at the Mexican border at Perry’s beck and call is comparable to Bush not going to New Orleans during Katrina. Rush Limbaugh thinks that is an understatement.
Obamacare — The less than stellar rollout of the Obamacare website was another opportunity to compare Katrina to something Obama did. Even Wolf Blitzer got lazy and used the comparison. He was joined by Brian Williams and a slew of others.
Hurricane Sandy — The actual hurricane disaster under Obama’s watch was immediately jumped on as his Katrina. Even before the storm hit on October 29th, 2012, Obama’s critics were salivating at the chance to make this “Obama’s Katrina.” Sean Hannity led the charge:
“So where’s President Obama? Well, after his photo-op with Governor Chris Christie, and the help of your tax dollars, he boards Air Force One and he begins his day with a stump speech… And with the horrifying images of Sandy’s devastation now contrasted with the president’s constant campaigning, this is starting to look like, in my opinion, Obama’s Katrina.”
The administration’s response to Sandy was so much better than Bush’s to Katrina that their reaction made Hannity and Fox a bit of a laughingstock. Rightly, so. FEMA did a commendable job in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, according to pretty much everybody except Fox News.
There should be a new rule (apologies to Bill Maher) that anybody who calls anything “Obama’s Katrina” be automatically ignored. That phrase should be analogous to the Godwin rule: use it and you lose.
John Stewart agrees. Here’s what he had to say about the Obamacare website glitch being compared to Katrina:
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons