John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


New Orleans: What Have We Learned

Posted on August 31, 2009



            It is the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the legacy of that disastrous storm lives with us every day.


            Without the Bush White House bungling the response, without Bush saying “Brownie, you are doing a helluva job”, without that stupid picture that Karl Rove made Bush take of him look over the wreckage from a safe distance in the air, we might not have had President Obama.


            It was the bungled federal response to Katrina that first raised questions about the President’s competence.  Because of Katrina, he lost momentum on Iraq.  Because of Katrina (and Harriet Meyers), we had that disaster known as Scott McClellan look like a complete goof.  Because of Katrina, Bush’s numbers started to take a huge drop.  Because of Katrina, Republicans in Congress started looking like goofs. 


            Bush paid the price for Katrina, but it wasn’t just his fault.  In fact, the people who deserved the lion’s share of the blame for the failures of New Orleans were the people of New Orleans. 


            Instead of working together as a community, a hefty percentage of folks in New Orleans decided to loot.  Instead of organizing an effective response, the worst mayor in history, Ray Nagin let school buses get flooded out.  Instead of caring for the sick and the hungry, the community leaders and politicians of the Big Easy did depressingly little.


            We hear the story about how the federal government hasn’t done enough to save New Orleans.  But the fact of the matter is that folks who live there didn’t do enough to save the city from itself, even before the storm hit. 


            New Orleans serves as a cautionary tale for the rest of us.  Big cities need strong support from its citizens to survive the long run.  They need strong civic organizations, they need to weed out corruption, they need to good mayor to implement evacuation plans, they need competence and planning and civic virtue.  If cities are riddled with corruption, if they look the other way when crime happens, if they don’t prepare for the worst, they can expect the worst when disaster strikes.


            George Bush gets blamed for the aftermath of Katrina.  But the folks who deserve the most blame lived in the Big Easy. 


            They didn’t take care of their city, and it couldn’t cope when tough times hit.


            America, take notice.  Stand up and demand competent, efficient government.  Throw the bums out at every level if you sense that the politicians are feathering their own nest instead of preparing for the future.  Don’t let what New Orleans happen to your won community. 


            Let’s learn something from the legacy of Katrina.

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