Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina destroyed a large part of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The death toll from a weather event – that we knew was coming – was shocking. This was not a sudden tsunami, but rather a hurricane we knew was going to hit our coast.
It was a failure of government to prepare and act quickly on a massive level. The incompetence of the Bush Administration made a global spectacle and drove Bush's approval ratings in the tank long before the global financial crisis.
It was a telling example of what happens when you put people in charge of government that believe government is incapable of doing anything.
Would you want to fly on a plane piloted by someone that was hostile to the belief that planes could actually fly and took no time to learn how to fly a plane?
Not since Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 had Federal and state authorities failed so badly to meet the needs of victims of a natural disaster in the United States. But the aftermath of Katrina was far worse and far more deadly. Shocked Americans watched helplessly as they witnessed death before their eyes on live television.
It was after 9-11, and again after Katrina, that public recognition of the need for government services grew in public polling.
Our first responders were treated like heroes.
One global financial crisis later, and those lessons have been completely lost on the Republican Party. They could not be more hostile to the belief that government can accomplish anything.
In the current Congress, the House of Representatives has broken new ground in refusing to fund disaster relief and in state after state public employees are targeted and trashed by legislators and governors – who are in fact also public employees!
After upstate New York experienced massive flooding from two tropical storms, freshman Congressman Tom Reed (who has been elevated to leadership in the Tea Party House) voted against disaster relief for his constituents.
He is not alone. Through flooding and tornadoes, drought and wildfires Republicans have denied funds to victims of natural disaster.
It is a nonsensical belief that government always does bad and cannot help that is curious from so many that are obsessed with getting government jobs as elected officials and their staff.
But will the House GOP have the courage of their "convictions" so close to Election Day if New Orleans and the Gulf Coast suffer from Hurricane Isaac?
The Hurricane will serve as an unwelcome reminder of Republicans' inability to manage the federal government.
Will Republicans at the GOP Convention in Orlando recognize the suffering their fellow citizens are enduring, or will they party on?
As Hurricane Isaac threatens the Gulf again, we will see if Katrina and Isaac serve as bookends of GOP hostility to federal disaster relief. An odd stance for a party that claims to "choose life" while watching people die in natural disasters rather than provide an adequate response.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.
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