It's hard to tell at this point just how bad Gustav is going to be.
CNN Is reporting that the industrial canal levees have been breached and water is pouring into the lower ninth ward. Please, God, let the levees hold.
I'm in the Twin Cities watching this all on cable news, trying to make sense of last week and this. And while it seems perverse to talk about the political ramifications of this disaster, it's essentially unavoidable, since the GOP has already attempted to make this a political storm. (Check this out if you don't believe me.)
But at a deeper level, politics is unavoidable because politics is the mechanism by which we address social needs and respond to crisis and the failure of the response to Katrina was a failure of politics. So something to keep in mind while watching the next few days of photo ops and somber calls to service unfold: John McCain is a United States Senator, and in the past he's fixed himself on a particular issue and ridden it tirelessly. (Most recently, maintaining an occupation and threatening other wars). If he cared about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast he could have done something these past three years. He could have made Gulf Reconstruction his issue, he could have excoriated his party for pushing federal dollars into the hands of cronies, for providing inadequate resources, for allowing the further destruction of the wetlands that serve as the only natural barrier to storm surges. He could have taken on the insurance companies that have been serially screwing the residents of the gulf. But he was too busy pushing for more troops, and more war and running for president.
Instead this is his record:
Though McCain issued a statement the next week calling on Congress to make sacrifices in order to fund recovery efforts, he was quoted in The New Leader on September 1 cautioning against over-spending in support of Katrina's victims. "We also have to be concerned about future generations of Americans," he said. "We're going to end up with the highest deficit, probably, in the history of this country."
That attitude was borne out in McCain's actions and votes. Forty Senators and 100 members of Congress visited New Orleans before he did; he finally got there in March 2006. He voted against establishing a Congressional commission to examine the Federal, State, and local responses to Katrina in med-September 2005. He repeated that vote in 2006. He voted against allowing up to 52 weeks of unemployment benefits to people affected by the hurricane, and in 2006 voted against appropriating $109 billion in supplemental emergency funding, including $28 billion for hurricane relief
So honestly, it's an insult to watch him make a show of concern now. The GOP wants to make this convention about service: volunteerism. But volunteers and fundraising isn't the solution for the Gulf, competent government is, and John McCain has hardly lifted a finger to make that happen.