Yesterday I commented at dKos the coverage of Katrina by the conservative NRO Corner blog. Their focus was not sensitive, to put it mildly. Today started similarly:

but Bush played guitar! Clearly the president doesn’t give a damn.

That’s the right thing to do, I conservatively suppose.

For a few hours, the hot Katrina issue was looting, of course. Sarcastic remarks were made towards RFK Jr (That man has no shame.) and Gov. Blanco (She may have won the election but she has no business being in charge of anything).

They were not modest:

The outrageous It’s-Bush’s/Barbour’s-Fault response to the hurricane from lefties who are, incredibly, taken seriously makes the case for why you should be subscribing to NR. In a roiling sea of wicked MSM bias, conspiracy-theorizing, and GOP-hate, National Review is a lifesaver. They give you venom and bile masquerading as compassionate reporting, we give you clear-thinking, sharp observations of major events and trends. They club you with psychotic episodes and call it biting commentary. We give you sane, reasoned, well-written, and witty analyses of culture, politics, the economy, and foreign affairs…

But soon they were reaching for reality base…

[…] Cheap shots, aside, there is a legitimate question here. Even given the wonders of modern communications which allow him to stay in touch with virtually everyone virtually all the time, does the president really need to spend five weeks of the summer based at his home in Crawford? What would be wrong with a two-week vacation? After all, he goes to Crawford at other times of the year, and, of course, he can spend all the time he wants there when he is no longer president…

One thing is for sure, Byron: No president, not this one and not any president who follows him, will ever again take a five-week vacation.

ON CNN RIGHT NOW… [Rich Lowry ]
…(my Fox is not coming through at the moment), a big apartment building with people on their balconies beckoning to the helicopter above and two teenagers on the roof with a sign, ?Help us.? It’s unbelievable that this is happening in America–so, so heart-breaking…

I THINK… [Rich Lowry ]
…Bush should send in federal troops…

1,000 DEAD IN BAGHDAD [Rich Lowry ]
In a stampede. Awful news.

“REFUGEES” [Rich Lowry]
It’s so odd to hear that word applied to anyone in America.

This is one of those times that makes us believe, with essayist Jim Holt, in a god who is 100 percent malign but only 80 percent effective…

IF YOU LIKED… [Rich Lowry]
…the 9/11 Commission hearings, just wait until the FEMA hearings we’re going to have over this…

The Bush speach was revealing:

Kind of a fizzle. I’m not sure exactly what else he could do with the speech, but somehow didn’t seem that engaged….

W [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
I found the Bush speech disappointing too, Rich. No doubt the bureacracy is at work but…I think we all already assumed as much. He could have highlighted some great stories of human endurance. Bucked folks up. People down there are not that interested that he flew over and saw some devastation from the comfort of Air Force One.

BOY… [JPod]
…what a lousy speech. He’d better return to the subject later in the week and take the full measure of this event.

Well, let me join the dogpile. The more I think about that miserable laundry-list speech of his, the madder it makes me. I’ve been watching cable news and WWL’s online stream for the past few days, and Bush’s speech was as canned and unrealistic as if it had been phoned in from Mars. All day long, stories of incredible suffering, armed mobs of looters roaming the streets, babies and their mothers in desperate conditions … and the president rattles off a policy speech in which he stops to thank a Texas county executive? Pod’s right: the continued viability of his presidency depends on how he handles this thing. It will take nothing for the “Bush doesn’t care” meme to circulate through the culture, especially as desperate Louisiana people start to grumble about all the Louisiana National Guardsmen serving over in Iraq instead of helping their own families and neighbors who have nothing.

…that Bush should have emoted. The point is that he sounded defeatist. And that’s what he cannot be now — what we, as a nation, cannot be now.

Here’s why Bush’s reaction (so far) has been inadequate. I watched the CBS Evening News just now. They broadcast a jaw-dropping report from refugee encampments atop the interstates in New Orleans. Folks, it was one of the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever seen. I can hardly believe this is our country. There were plenty of desperate people stuck there under the boiling sun, with no food, no water, no nothing — including mothers with babies. There was an elderly woman sitting on the curb next to the covered body of her husband, who died waiting to be rescued. She said that she’d flagged down a passing cop to ask for help, and all he could tell her was to move the body of her husband of 53 years out of the way, so the smell of his decomposition didn’t bother people. CBS showed the covered corpse of a man the refugees said jumped from the interstate to his death in despair. These people have NOTHING, and they’re growing desperate. The human drama playing out in Louisiana now beggars description. We don’t need mere emoting — the hapless Gov. Blanco shows how useless that is. But we do need our president to make an emotional connection of some sort with his suffering countrymen. You can be tough, competent AND emotional. It’s called Giuliani 101.

Probably they are even (secretly) impressed with some critique from the left. Here @ @ @ @ @ @ are some articles they refer to. And here are some letters they cite:

>> As you may have noticed from the coverage, the only people left in the city are emergency workers and very poor black people. Of particular concern, is that the latter group generally do not know how to swim.

It never ceases to amaze me though how excellent the US is at dealing with disasters like this. I commend particularly to you Steyn’s piece in the Telegraph yesterday on this point…

>> Truth is, it’s not a “black” thing – it’s a “poor” thing. There aren’t any public swimming pools in New Orleans (OK so the entire city has just been turned into one) and kids don’t get taught to swin at school. Indeed, in most public schools in Orleans parish they are lucky if they get taught to read.

>> Right now, the entire country is watching a great American city collapsing into hopeless devastation, and if there IS a Federal response going on it is barely visible. Government has got to move here….

>> This is an EXTREMELY disappointing speech. Doesn’t he realize that more people may have died from this storm than died on September 11? I don’t expect him to say he’s gonna get Katrina “dead or alive” for what she’s done to America. But for crying out loud, can he put off the laundry list of all the things his wonderful bureaucracy has done so far until the end of the speech and begin by addressing the pain we all feel as this tragedy is unfolding in slow-motion on live TV? We’re talking death on a massive scale, and within 2 minutes he’s thanking Texas for housing refugees (way to perpetuate that “I’m all about Texas” stereotype).

>> The scenes I’m seeing on Fox are things you’d think you’d only see in Somalia or Bangladesh. This is the United States of America. We can’t get a single truck full of water to these people? We can’t get a single helicopter to fly over and drop supplies? A cop car and a military truck roll up from the distance, giving the suffering people hope. Do they stop as the desperate wave? No. They drive through. They can’t even stop to tell them where they should go to get any life-saving water or food.

I am starting to feel a mixture of outrage and shame…

Probably only Derbyshire did not write a single post on the hurricane, although he likes titles like ESSAY OF THE WEEK or (yesterday) MOST DEPRESSING EMAIL OF THE DAY. But the big clown was Jonah Goldberg, again. He started they day with

JOKE NO LONGER [Jonah Goldberg ]
Everyone knows the 50 different versions of the joke about the Meteor (apocalypse, whatever) heading to earth and The New York Times (or Washington Post) running the headline: “World Ends: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.”

Here’s ABC News:

Poorest Hit Hardest By Hurricane Katrina

Disaster Disproportionately Affects Those Who Can Least Afford It

I’ve decided that every nice, cool, breezy day which happens to come along until the day I die, I’m going to credit global warming. Absent other data, it makes exactly as much sense to blame weather we don’t like on global warming as it does to credit global warming for the weather we do like.

“What a lovely day, thank goodness for fossil fuels!”

Those carping on my levity the other day might take a moment to notice Juan Cole’s gloating that only those nasty, rural Christian zealots were suffering from Katrina while the fun-loving urbanites of Bourbon street were spared.

Update Rereading his post, my initial reading might be a bit of a stretch. His real aim was to exploit the destruction from Katrina to attack Falwell and Robertson, not explicitly to relish the fact those who befell “death and destruction” outside of Bourbon Street were Christians. But, given Cole’s tone I really don’t think I’m that far off the mark either. The whole point is “Aha! See Robertson’s kind of people were hit while the cosmopolitans were spared. Nyah, nyah.”

SHELLFISH [Jonah Goldberg]
This will shock a lot of you, but I’m no expert on shellfish farming. However, I was once told by a fellow in Texas who seemed to know what he was talking about, that you shouldn’t eat farmed shellfish after very big rains because the run-off fertilizer and other pollution from big farms can create diseases in farmed oysters, shrimp etc. Considering how much shrimp farming is done in the Gulf Coast, does anybody who knows about this stuff think it’d be wise to hold off eating domestically farmed shellfish for a while? Or is this all nonsense?
Several readers complain that it’s in fact true that the hurricane will disproportionately affect poor people. I don’t really dispute that in the sense most mean it. Yes, the poor will have special hardships. Obviously so. But what I objected to, and still object to, is the reflexive playing of the class card. Is it really true that some middle class retirees who heeded the advice of the government to leave town, only to watch their homes be looted after a lifetime of hardwork for a better life are suffering less than a poor person who lost his rented apartment? What’s the metric for measuring this sort of suffering? What about the small businessman who worked his entire life to build something he’s proud of? What about the families who lost loved ones, but had the poor taste to make more money than the poverty line?

Whatever happened to the idea that unity in the face of a calamity is an important value? We’re all in it together, I guess, except for the poor who are extra-special.

But he got some picture later:

OKAY, STRIKE TWO [Jonah Goldberg]
In a real sense the poor do have it worse, as a general proposition. You can’t watch these images and really conclude otherwise. I do think that I am entirely right about the nature of suffering in that it cannot be measured by a simple economic metric. For example, contrary to the grief I give Rich, I make a comfortable living. I don’t think my grief would have been 1/1,000th less had I made ten times as much when my father died. And I don’t think it would have been 1/1,000th more if I made half as much. That was how I saw it. To me measuring such things by an economic calculus seems as grotesque as some people seem to think it is not to.

But, while watching this footage of these poor people with absolutely no place to go and with the prospects of the city being closed for months it’s pretty obvious — as I said — the hardships affecting the poor become more pronounced and disproportionate. Your heart really does have to go out to these poor souls. I still don’t think grief and misery can be measured economically, but as this disaster stretches out over time, it seems impossible to deny that the grief and misery will be extended longer the further down the economic ladder you go. I sympathize for more for a middle class family which has lost everything it worked for than I do for some thug having a grand time smashing a jewelry shop window. But looking at these poor women carrying their kids aimlessly through the muck with no place to go, you have to concede their lot would be much better with the means to find a dry bed at the end of the day.

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