Getting Katrina Right

Rebuilding New Orleans is better than making political appearances

By Robert A. George
|  Monday, Aug 31, 2009  |  Updated 11:00 AM CDT
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Getting Katrina Right

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People walk through the Lower 9th Ward in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, in New Orleans.

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What's more important for the people of New Orleans -- four years after Hurricane Katrina? Is it that their lives are getting back together under the now competent eye of FEMA?  Or that President Obama hasn't made a ceremonial -- i.e. political -- appearance down there when he couldn't really do anything to affect the situation on the ground? 

If it's the former, then the Obama administration should be rightly credited with getting things right, quietly and without trying to attract all sorts of glory. And, indeed, the Obama team is even getting high praise from what could be considered an unusual source -- Republicans, including Louisiana's chief executive (and potential future Obama opponent): 

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., says Obama's team has brought a more practical and flexible approach. Many local officials offer similar reviews. Even Doug O'Dell, former President George W. Bush's recovery coordinator, says the Obama administration's "new vision" appears to be turning things around.

Not too long ago, Jindal said in a telephone interview, Louisiana governors didn't have "very many positive things" to say about the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But Jindal said he had a lot of respect for the current FEMA chief, Craig Fugate, and his team. "There is a sense of momentum and a desire to get things done," the governor said.

Added O'Dell: "I think the results are self-evident."

Pretty impressive, eh? Demonstrating the ability to be "practical" and "flexible," and praise from one's opponents. In short, getting the little things right -- and not trying for "style" points -- or glorying in political credit. Sounds laudable, right? 

So who could find anything wrong with that?

How about one of the president's supposed allies -- Democratic strategist/TV talking head James Carville!  He's a Louisiana native (and recent returning New Orleans resident). He articulated this weekend that he was "miffed" that Obama hadn't yet visited the region -- even though Carville admitted that "progress" could be clearly seen! 

This is exactly what happens when someone is so consumed by politics that one forgets that substance should count for something.  Maybe Carville should just keep quiet on this. If the Republicans can't find something to fault Obama for on this sensitive issue, where does Carville get off whining?  

 New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.

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