Friday, August 22, 2008

Checking the Record

President Bush was in town this week in advance of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He trumpeted the government's efforts to aid in the recovery process, evidently in an effort to revise his record of neglect (if not hostility) to New Orleans since the storm. Fortunately, a few writers have checked his speech against his actual accomplishments.

In The Times-Picayune, Lolis Eric Elie wrote:

It's great to know that the federal government is going to allow our state 30 years instead of three to pay back our $1.8 billion share of future levee improvement costs. But unless you know that it took nearly three years for Bush's government to agree to that provision, you'd get the impression that the feds are more willing partners in our recovery than has been the case.

Sen. Mary Landrieu issued a statement after Bush's speech that attempted to point out the holes in Bush's statements.

"The President should also be reminded that in the Emergency Supplemental bill signed into law in June, his administration pressured the House of Representatives to strip $15 million from the restoration of Jackson Barracks -- the backdrop for today's visit," Landrieu wrote in a statement.

And at The Huffington Post, Harry Shearer wrote:

As disturbing as the words he spoke were the words Bush never mentioned: in almost half an hour of remarks citing indications of progress in New Orleans since the disaster and citing the work that still needs to be done, the President never uttered the words “coastal restoration.” When he bragged that he had, after protracted urging by the Governor and the state’s Congressional delegation, allowed Louisiana to repay the federal share of levee rebuilding over thirty years instead of three, he said he didn’t think the state should have to choose between better levees and “other” urgent programs. What is the urgent program the state is free to spend the money on? Coastal restoration, the rebuilding of the wetlands being lost at the rate of a football field every hour or so — but the state’s spending plans fall considerably short of what’s needed to repair the buffer that protects New Orleans from more severe hurricanes, an area that also serves as the source for 40% of the nation’s fresh seafood. If we can’t even utter those words, can we face the task of repairing “the mistakes of the past”?

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