Joseph Curl at the Washington Times has been playing a little game of “imagine if this were Dubya” with a former official of the Bush White House:
Imagine if former President Bush had popped into a hurricane-ravaged region, walked around with a few federal officials for an hour, hugged distraught and sobbing women, then headed off to Las Vegas, bounding off Air Force One with a huge smile, waving to adoring fans?
Imagine if the bashed and thrashed 43rd president had popped over to FEMA for a 30-minute photo op, then jetted off for yet another campaign rally with Hollywood celebs?
The Katrina aftermath, and its negative repercussions for Bush, have become a fixture of our political mythology. But as Curl points out, Bush’s biggest mistake was trusting the Democrat mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana, whose deadly incompetence was papered over by the mad media dash to blame everything on the President and his federal apparatus – an effort very much helped along, for obvious and self-serving reasons, by Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco. Bush could have saved lives by removing Nagin and Blanco from office before the storm hit, and installing competent people to get Louisiana through its hour of crisis… but even then, decades of one-party corruption would have left New Orleans vulnerable in a way no executive could have repaired in a matter of hours.
Curl also credits Bush with having the good sense to stay out of the area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, instead of dropping in for a photo op – you know, the opposite of what Barack Obama did. Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy (er, excuse me, “Super Storm Sandy,” as I can’t help but notice most of the media now insists upon calling it) has clearly been shaped by Katrina mythology. Obama’s people created hundreds of photo opportunities, both in the White House and at Ground Zero. His determination to manage the “optics” of the event has been ferocious.
But “optics” are pretty much the only thing Obama has been managing. The actual situation on the ground is a stunning contrast with the blustery speeches that left media hearts a-flutter, and got them babbling excitedly about a marvelous “hurricane bounce” that would erase four years of presidential failure from the public mind. Curl summarizes the situation:
The storm hit one week ago. What is the status of the states hardest hit? Dire. There are still 2.5 million without power, and temperatures have dipped into the 20s (another powerful storm is blowing up the coast and expected to hit the region by midweek). Bodies are still being recovered in Staten Island. Chaos reigns in the streets of the outer boroughs. Residents have taken up arms ??? baseball bats, machetes, shotguns ??? as crime and looting soar. Handmade signs popped up: ???Looters Will Be Shot??? and ???Block Protected By Smith & Wesson.???
???It???s like the Wild West, a borderline lawless situation,??? said one resident as he stockpiled knives, a machete and a bow and arrow.
Just a day after the storm, frightened citizens queued up for hours in lines to buy gas: Five days later, when the federal government announced free gas (well, free for storm victims; U.S. taxpayers foot the bill), thousands flooded the handout sites. Armed police battled some who cut lines as frustration ran high. At one site for free gas, the line was 16 hours long.
Six days after the storm, officials distributed dry ice (uh, a refrigerator???s contents spoils in about six hours without power). FEMA ran out of potable water to hand out to the trapped and powerless Saturday ??? the agency hadn???t ordered more until late Friday, so new shipments aren???t expected until Monday at the earliest.
And this comes at a time when not only is Barack Obama personally looking to scoop up credit for his dazzling crisis management skills, but liberals are using Hurricane Sandy as evidence that we need a huge centralized government in Washington to protect us from natural disasters!
So where’s Obama’s hurricane split screen? You know what I mean, because you know exactly how the media would be handling this story if a Republican was president: split-screen images with Obama wearing his silly bomber jacket and making big promises on one side, coupled with video of the forlorn and suffering hurricane survivors on the other. Every Sunday show would have been dominated by discussions of the painful difference between a Republican president’s rhetoric, and the disastrous reality on the ground.
The media would have thrown themselves on any “hurricane bump” for incumbent President John McCain as though it were a live hand grenade, to protect McCain’s challenger from the blast. Reporters would be expressing fury that a Republican dared to continue campaigning at all in the wake of such disastrous mismanagement, never mind having the nerve to attach jumper cables from the hurricane to start the engine of his stalled re-election campaign. And with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg a grisly disaster who’s probably one pratfall away from getting run out of town on a rail, a Republican president who somehow gained his endorsement would be wearing him like an albatross.
In addition to those devastating split-screen comparisons, the other thing a real and impartial media would be doing right now is building a narrative around Obama. His big talk and small action in the wake of Super Storm Sandy would be worked into a long-running narrative about how everything he does is symbolic, and usually very expensive, but with very little tangible benefit. From the “stimulus” and its mythical “shovel-ready jobs” to Benghazi, everything Obama does is performance art, not a demonstration of managerial skill. He addresses America’s dangerous debt crisis by proposing completely symbolic tax increases that wouldn’t even bring in enough money to cover the new spending he wants, let alone the spending increases he has already implemented. He thinks “accountability” means chanting the magic phrase “I take full responsibility,” but appears puzzled by the suggestion he should actually do something about it, or that anyone in his Administration should suffer consequences for their failures. He drops a speech, writes checks with our money, checks off another “problem solved,” and heads off down the Yellow Brick Road, without a single backward glance at the devastation behind him.
Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod, actually suggested this weekend that Obama deserves a total pass on the Benghazi debacle just because he gave a nice speech in front of the coffins. That would fit perfectly into the narrative about Obama’s voodoo governing style, in which symbolic acts of magic completely erase the actual results of his policies. But few in the media are interested in debunking his magic act. They’d rather serve as his stage assistants. It’s easy, and fun. All they have to do is forget everything Obama said more than 24 hours ago, and avoid giving their viewers any tangible reminders of the vast gulf between the President’s stage patter and the actual fate of the rabbits vanishing down his top hat, or the ladies he’s sawed in half.