Fact: Katrina was a devastating storm. It left terrible damage to innocent people's lives and to property throughout the Gulf South.
Fact: There have been other storms as damaging and some far more damaging. What, then, is different about this storm? Here are a few tentative thoughts.
First, the incompetence of the local and state authorities in Louisiana and especially New Orleans was breathtaking. To issue a mandatory evacuation order without providing means of transport is almost criminally irresponsible. To take citizens to shelters where they would be beaten, robbed, and raped, and to provide no police protection for them was astoundingly incompetent. To allow armed gangs to shoot at rescuers was almost beyond belief.
Second, the response of the federal government is described as slow, and it was slow at first. But can anyone name a natural disaster in which more federal troops, supplies, and money have been dispatched as quickly as they have been done in this disaster? Bush's response has not been unusually bad, but amazingly powerful and swift. In other hurricanes, survivors have been left for weeks on their own. In Katrina's case, the whole affected area has been covered with money and aid and troops to restore order on a scale and with speed never seen before.
Third, the networks and newspapers have been quick to cry racism because so many of the victims were black. This is total nonsense. New Orleans is a mostly black city. Obviously, most of the victims of the storm would be black. No one has been able to point to a single instance in which black victims were mistreated because of their race by whites. In fact, just the opposite has happened. The whole story is of rescues and salvation by people of all races aimed at people of all races. In a gesture never seen before, the whole heart of the nation has taken in poor, bereft black families and sheltered them absolutely without regard to race. This is a mirror of the basic goodness of Americans and the disappearance of racism as an acceptable action basis of American life. It is also a measure of the total absence of racism in the heart of George W. Bush. The media may play this as a story of race versus race, but that is pure incendiary fantasy, and dangerous nonsense.
What is the real story of Katrina is (I suggest) not so much that nature wrought fury on land, water, people, property, and animals, not at all anything about racism, not much about federal government incompetence. The real story is that the mainstream media rioted.
They used the storm and its attendant sorrows to continue their endless attack on George W. Bush. Wildly inflated stories about the number of dead and missing, totally made up old wives' tales of racism, breathless accounts of Bush's neglect that are utterly devoid of truth and of historical context -- this is what the mainstream media gave us. The use of floating corpses, of horror stories of plagues, the sad faces of refugees, the long-faced phony accusations of intentional neglect and racism -- anything is grist for the media's endless attempts to undermine the electorate's choice last November. It is sad, but true that the media will use even the most heart breaking truths -- and then add total inventions -- to try to weaken and then evict from office a man who has done nothing wrong, but has instead turned himself inside out to help the real victims.
In the meantime, George Bush does not lash out, does not attack those who falsely accuse him of the most horrible acts and neglect. Instead, he doggedly goes on helping the least among us. I don't know how he does it, but we are very lucky he does. As for truth, it eventually may be salvaged from the flooded neighborhoods of The Crescent City, but not as long as there is a lie to use to hurt an honest man trying to do the best he can, and hundreds of thousands of brave, tireless men and women who do more than point fingers and tell tales. The Katrina story is a disgrace to the people who are "reporting" it while pouring gasoline on a fire. They and their crusade against George Bush are the real stories, and they are dismal ones.