Picking The Wings Off Butterflies: Bush Returns to New Orleans

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During Katrina, Getty image. Front photo by Reuters.

Blithely returning to the scene of (one of) his crimes, a grinning, dancing, shamelessly tone-deaf George Bush visited New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Katrina to rewrite history, honor a rebuilt school, and celebrate what one former lackey called "the almost unimaginable renaisssance" of a city that for thousands of hardscrabble survivors remains ravaged. Bush has evidently, conveniently forgotten what one historian has called the "confluence of blunders" - from a disastrously inadequate rescue effort to his fly-over on Air Force One to his infamous "Heckuva job, Brownie" - that led furious residents to display Bush effigies at local carnivals for years after Katrina.

Bush wasn't the only one turning a blindly revisionist eye to the realities of Katrina. Before a planned visit by Obama, Louisiana's moronic Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote an open letter urging the Administration to avoid "inserting the divisive political agenda of liberal environmental activism" by mentioning the C word - climate change. "The temptation to stray into climate change politics should be resisted," he lectured, straying into politics. Besides, he added, "The people of Louisiana have already agreed upon a pragmatic and bipartisan approach to preventing and mitigating the damage of future weather systems," though he failed to note that the people he's accusing of having all these stupid ideas about how hurricanes happen are the same people paying for that solution.

On his visit, Bush was likewise careful to skirt any recognition of Katrina's causes or effects. He avoided the federally administered levees that failed, the rubble of the Lower 9th Ward and other still-devastated neighborhoods, and any questions about or references to his utter negligence - an act of arrogance The Nation's Dave Zirin likened to "picking the wings off a butterfly." Instead, he called the anniversary "a good time to honor courage and resolve." He spoke at an event to honor police and firefighters, and at the city's oldest public school, which was badly flooded and later rehabbed into the Warren Easton Charter High School with funds from Laura Bush's foundation - a lonesome success so exciting to Bush that he excruciatingly danced ("on people's graves," noted Zirin.) "Isn't it amazing?" Bush said, which it was, but in ways he couldn't begin to comprehend. "The storm nearly destroyed New Orleans and yet, now, New Orleans is the beacon for school reform."

Alas, New Orleans is now also a still largely destitute city, despite massive funds allegedly raised for recovery efforts. Only a fraction of the millions raised by a Clinton-Bush Sr. fund has been used, billions in state and federal grants went mostly to restore upscale white neighborhoods, an estimated third of all rebuilding efforts have been completed, and thousands of residents remain bitter about homes lost and ground not yet regained - what has been, for too many, "an unhappy ending." "We ain’t been winning anything,” said Henry Irvin Sr., an Air Force veteran and Katrina survivor, but just barely. Facts owe. Visits from Bush and his ilk mean nothing to him: "People like that, that ain’t my people.”

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Reuters photo

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