Obama Takes a Shot at Bush’s Incompetence in His Katrina Speech

President Obama spoke today at Xavier University in New Orleans to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While much of his speech was rightly dedicated to the rebirth rebuilding, and revival of New Orleans, Obama took a shot at the Bush administration, “I am proud that my FEMA Director, Craig Fugate, has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida.” Et tu, Brownie?

Obama discussed preparing for future threats to make sure that there is never another Katrina, ” Now, even as we continue our recovery efforts, we’re also focusing on preparing for future threats so that there is never another disaster like Katrina. The largest civil works project in American history is underway to build a fortified levee system. And as I — just as I pledged as a candidate, we’re going to finish this system by next year so that this city is protected against a 100-year storm. We should not be playing Russian roulette every hurricane season. And we’re also working to restore protective wetlands and natural barriers that were not only damaged by Katrina — were not just damaged by Katrina but had been rapidly disappearing for decades. ”

The President then took a shot at the prior administration’s incompetent handling of Katrina, “In Washington, we are restoring competence and accountability. I am proud that my FEMA Director, Craig Fugate, has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida. He came from Florida, a state that has known its share of hurricanes. We’ve put together a group led by Secretary Donovan and Secretary Napolitano to look at disaster recovery across the country. We’re improving coordination on the ground, and modernizing emergency communications, helping families plan for a crisis. And we’re putting in place reforms so that never again in America is somebody left behind in a disaster because they’re living with a disability or because they’re elderly or because they’re infirmed. That will not happen again. ”

On a political level, Obama’s message was clear. Unlike George W. Bush, I take disaster preparedness and recovery seriously. I appointed somebody with disaster management experience to run FEMA, not some political crony from the International Arabian Horse Association. I think this is an important message to send to the people in the Gulf whose faith in the government’s ability to respond to a natural disaster was destroyed by incompetence at the local, state, but especially at the federal level. The problem is in deeper because all Americans saw the post-Katrina ineptitude and doubted the government’s ability to respond to any disaster.

Obama already distinguished himself as the anti-Bush with his handling of the BP oil leak, but still his critics continue to push the talking point that Obama is “just like Bush.” One of the most important and Herculean tasks that Obama faces is that his administration must try to undo the damage to the American political psyche caused by eight years of Bush incompetence.

The Bush administration was one of the most inept White Houses of the last 100 years. Their handling of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina placed them in a class apart on the incompetence scale, and in an election year, where Republicans are trying to recapture the Congress based on voter anger, it is shrewd move by Obama to remind voters just how incompetent George W. Bush was, and it is this same ineptitude that the GOP is looking to restore to power this November.

Full Text of Obama’s Katrina Anniversary Speech

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35 Replies to “Obama Takes a Shot at Bush’s Incompetence in His Katrina Speech”

  1. Bush didnt do war very well either. Rumsfeld was so inept that he shouldn’t have been a grounds keeper. Bush did do well at selling billions in treasury bonds and dropping the interest from 6% to 1.5% however. The chinese love him.

  2. The Right will be in here to whine about this, but the truth is that was an epic cluster you know what. I remember driving past trucks going the OTHER direction with water, FEMA trailers going the wrong way, people begging me for money for gas or food — and this was weeks after it hit. I also saw things a lot of Americans didn’t as I had friends shooting for network news there and they sent me their photos. Heartbreaking. Unspeakable. 3rd world.

    I’ll never forget it.

    And it all came down to the Republican’s hatred of government and propensity for appointing incompetents in order to prove that government doesn’t work.

    Government doesn’t work under people who hate it, that’s true. But government has a role to play and disaster management is one of them. Unless the Right want us to live in a 3rd world country, like it was after Katrina. No thanks.

    Great post. No matter how badly the Right want to claim Obama is like Bush, the meme won’t stick because the two are vastly different. Obama is a smart man who believes in government and is astute enough to appoint experienced people in important positions. Which reminds me, have the Republicans lifted their hold on our TSA security chief yet, or are they still holding our air safety hostage to score political points against Obama?

  3. Katrina and the Spill were mirror images of one another: in the former case, local and state officials stymied the administrationls efforts to deal with the problem; in the latter the administration stymied state and local efforts. Then the off-shore drilling industry was kicked out of the Gulf so it could move to places like Brazil, where George Soros has massive investments in off-shore drilling.

    Gee, I’m glad we finally have a “competent” administration. With fewer than 10% of it’s members (not exepting the President, unless you want to include his stint at the Honolulu Baskin-Robbins) having held private sector employment, they excel in the “real world” skills of theorizing and coercion, honed during their years in academia, governmet, and activism.

    Heaven help us all!

  4. Really? You equate the two?

    One we had warning for. One we didn’t.
    One was caused by deregulation of the Bush Cheney admin from the secret energy meetings. One was a natural disaster.

    Obama was on it right away. Bush was not.

    One the federal government was responsible for (Katrina) as a natural disaster. One the federal government was not responsible for (see the legislation following Exxon Valdez).

    Etc.

  5. Excellent article. President Obama is always at his best when he is speaking out and not trying to reach out to those who only slap his hand away. And there is no comparison with his handling of Katrina and Obama’s handling of the oil spill. The federal government wasn’t responsible for cleaning up the spill – a private, British-owned corporation was.

  6. I would take the manager of a Baskin-Robbins who at least knows something about small business over the “leadership” of the Republican Party anyday. Boy, you just can’t stand the fact that Obama can get things done while W. pretended to cut brush in Crawford? The oil spill is not the same thing as Katrina.

    Turn off Fox News, speak to adult, go to you local libary, I know, I know libraries are Socialist. I mean who would loan books out for free for the betterment of the community? How much more anti-free market could they be? There is no profit in that. Please, pick up a book that was not written by someone that you have seen on Fox News. Now here comes the hard part, are you ready? READ IT. Try to learn something and at least pretend to be intelligent before you open your mouth up in public, in the future.

  7. Nice ad hominem attack, Jason. I’ll just toss out a few salient points to provoke some more insults. Had President Obama ever managed a Baskin-Robbins (or anything, for that matter) I’d be vastly more impressed with his executive experience. You may recall that when he lived in Oahu he was just a kid–I daresay he was dipping, not meeting payroll.
    I’ve actually been in a library, believe it or not, public libraries having been founded by “robber baron” Andrew Carnegie, in case you didn’t know. Were you aware of the fact that Laura Bush was a librarian? Or that Rove and Bush had a friendly competition to see who could read the most books? Bush won, they both came in at over a hundre a year, and I’m afraid it wasn’t Bobbsey Twins, it was history, biography, economics etc.
    Yes, I’ve been known to watch Fox News, guilty as charged. And MSNBC, CNN. ABC, etc. And to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, and to read the New York Times, because I have no fear of opposing points of view. Do you?

    I eagerly await the next round of character assasination–not the most impressive argumentative tool, but amusing nevertheless.

    Incidentally, Hrafnkell, it is the responsibility of the federal government to clean up oil spills. It is the responsibility of half-American owned BP to pay for the clean-up. Love your country, by the way, to which I introduced modern massage therapy in the early 80’s. The director of Nuddskoli Islands (sorry about the accents) was one of my students, and I have taught there.

  8. No, it’s not. I directed you to the legislation following the Exxon Vadez spill. The govt is supposed to make sure the company is doing it, but the company is in charge of the clean up. The govt is not supposed to take over.

  9. All he does is blame Bush. And Bush is so dignified and says nothing about Obama’s job performance.

    Anyway…did you see the poll that said the more people thought Obama mishandled the oil spill than people who thought Bush mishandled Katrina?

  10. “Bush is so dignified”.

    You are hysterical. Sadly, what you don’t realize is that all of these guys are friends.

    Bush did mismanage Katrina. There is no opinion about that. It’s a fact. Would you prefer Obama lie about things and not hold Bush accountable? Exactly what do you hold Bush accountable for, anyway?

    And by the way, Glenn Beck supported the bail outs. The Bush bail outs. FYI. so tough to keep up, isn’t it? Get back to us after Fox tells you what the rebuttal is tomorrow.

  11. Joseph, I am not sure I agree with your assessment that Katrina and the Oil Spill in the Gulf were mirror images of each other. Having worked for Craig Fugate personally, I can assure you the BP spill was handled to the letter. There isn’t a single person I can think of that is more qualified. In turn, Thad Allen as incident commander was a logical and brilliant choice.

    This is an interesting argument you pose because Craig Fugate worked in FL during Katrina. FL’s efforts under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact is credited for so very much–from response to recovery (too much to list here) in the affected states. FL supplied everything from PODs, Fire Rescue, Police, IT, Strike Teams, Task Forces, etc. the response was HUGE–thousands of personnel and resources. In all of these THOUSANDS of after action reports–which are public record, they have a common thread. They all echoed the lack of effort by the Federal Govt. They state that the Federal Resources were non-existent. Everything came from the surrounding states that could afford to send resources.

    It shouldn’t have been that way. The NIMS system (National Incident Management System ) was spawned as a result of 9/11 under Bush. He gets a great deal of criticism from industry insiders (Emergency Mgmt. professionals) for Katrina’s response because the Federal Govt. didn’t follow their own procedural directives designed to help all phases of preparedness, response, recovery, etc. in an event like Katrina. To argue that there were enough resources mobilized for Katrina by the Feds is ridiculous. And that’s just one aspect of responding to a natural disaster of that magnitude.

    Now, look at the BP oil spill in comparison. There wasn’t an incident command set up for the Deep Water Horizon Incident by the parties responsible because of the super lax deregulations, etc. Another fail for the Bush Administration in my opinion. For the Federal Coordinating Officers to do what they did in such a short period of time–establish such a detailed Response Plan, Mobilize and execute it, bring in resources and personnel from all over the world, become experts in off-shore drilling and learn the nuances of this particular situation–it was incredibly impressive to say the least.

    So, this “real world” theory of yours hold true in painting the opposite picture. It appears President Obama was either intimately familiar with Bush’s procedureal directors, or he put people in place that were intimately familiar with procedural directives. If the topic interests you, I suggest you check out The National Terrorism Preparedness Institute in St. Petersburg, FL. There you will be able to access TONS of information regarding the lessons learned from Katrina and then you can compare them to the After action reports which will be generated over the following weeks regarding the BP oil spill. I guarantee you, you will be surprised at the complexities and will be able to draw more fact-driven comparisons.

  12. Sarah, I’m not sure we are in disagreement. My understanding is that while it is BP’s responsibility to fund and execute the cleanup, it is the Feds’ responsibility not only to supervise the effort, but to ascertain whether BP is capable of the job, and if necessary to step in and take over. So the ultimate responsibility lies with the federal government, although it is up to BP, if they are deemed competent to do so, to do the job and pay for it.

  13. Yes, Joseph, that is my understanding as well. To be honest, the Exxon Valdez legislation is rather difficult to implement — it says the company is in charge, and has to pay, but the government needs to oversee. How can the government be responsible for something they have no control over? I’ve been in that situation at work plenty of times — responsible for the result but no control over the budget. That’s a no win.

    If I was short with you, I apologize. We’ve been beset by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin trolls for the last few days who have been threatening us and leaving nasty comments. Clearly you are here to debate civilly and I’m glad you stopped in.

  14. DeeinOK, thanks for your informative post, which provides much food for reading and thought, rather than glib insults.

    My admittedly rather less informed perception than yours was that there Bush was unable to send in the National Guard or take a great number of other steps in the absence of permission from Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco, permission which was not initially forthcoming. I also observed the frustration on the part of Bobby Jindal and others when they were not being permitted to use berms, barges, and boom due to federal bureaucratic interference.

    I do not pretend either that the Federal response to Katrina was not flawed, or that one can equate an oil spill to a category five hurricane.

  15. Under the NRP both BP and the government have a role; however, the ultimate authority lies with the Federal Government. The technical expertise, plans, etc. were suppose to come from BP and of course, BP didn’t have one. There should have been MAC group.

  16. No harm, no foul, Sarah. There are things about which we may hold different opinions, but, in contradistinction to the author of the original post, you seem more interested in examining those points than in merely lobbing superfluous insults. Good on ya, mate.

  17. Looks like we posted at the same time. LOL

    I understand you weren’t claiming that there weren’t mistakes. :)
    You see, the very system Bush set up gave him the authority to stage resources. He didn’t need permission from the local level. There is a system set up whereby locals can request Presidental Declaration and then resources. When the community requests and nothing happens the community is responsible financially. When the Feds act without a request the Federal Govt. is responsible financially. The rule of thumb is that local municipalities are required to sustain themselves for 24-48 hours before they make requests. Elected officials (by their own charters, EOPs, etc.) go thru this formal council meeting, etc. to declare a disaster because they need to authorize the funding.

    Craig Fugate and people from the National Hurricane Center called the elected officials weeks out and discussed inter-state cooperation (EMAC) which is already in place. The requesting state pays the bill to the responding state AFTER the disaster is mitigated. They work out the costs between each other. FL Emergency Mgrs. also insisted that the locals in LA, MS, AL request help now from the feds before the storm hit and further adivised them about the levees breaking–they all were very well informed about it. The night before, people in FL were frantic for the people in New Orleans and no one (including the Feds) even batted an eye. I remember hearing that some of the cities in Louisiana and Mississippi were getting “pissed off” at the alarmists in FL. I also distinctly remember the National Hurricane Center people discussing in an EM conference how they begged for evacuation. EVERYONE KNEW but no one lifted a finger. Bush and his team not only knew the severity, but discussed how it would cost taxpayers money if they had to move all these resources to that area and nothing would happen and they didn’t have requests. They actually discussed the political ramifications. FL officials argued the roads would be impassable after the fact. Again, nothing happened. Those decisions cost people their lives. What was troublesome to a great many people after the magnitude of the storm’s destruction became apparent was the hesitation to act until a formal request could be made by the locals so the communities could foot the bill. What was not readily apparent to the Federal Coordinating Officers is many of these local communities no longer even had the infrastructure to make requests–they were like third world countries. And they certainly couldn’t allocate funds they didn’t have. The Feds took a hands-off approach thinking since they didn’t recieve any urgent requests, we’ll get to them when they can. Those areas were the hardest hit and FL ended up responding.

    I have a unique perspective on this as it was my career for 15 yrs. There is almost always considerably more to relate than what is reported on tv when it comes to disasters. I was an insider. Katrina was debacle that will discussed in Emergency Management courses for years to come.

  18. @Joseph Meyer I would like to apologize to you personally for insulting you. Nothing makes my skin crawl more than the intellectually lazy equation of Obama to Bush. It is disingenious to compare a two term president with a man who isn’t even half way through his first term. You insulted me and every reader of this comment section by starting your comment off with such dubious reasoning, and to be honest this is probably the three millionth time that I have read that Obama is just like Bush, but it was unfair and you did nothing to deserve to having all of my frustrations taken out on you. Once again, I am sorry.

  19. Joseph,

    The meme that Obama is like Bush is rather irritating in its inaccuracy and is most often accompanied by wild accusations and conspiracies:-) We can criticize Obama without comparing him to Bush, who really stands alone in his utter incompetence. I simply can’t see the logic in equivocating the two, other than emotional reactions by both the Left and Right.

    I think it’s more important to articulate our legitimate concerns in a manner that is productive and without agenda. By agenda, I mean that the Right wants to feel vindicated that the Democrats’ President is just as bad as Bush, but they still won’t admit that Bush was a horrible President. The Left allows their frustration with Obama not fixing everything to balloon into wild accusations that he is like Bush, without looking at facts. The oil spill was a different animal than Katrina. In fact, I wrote a piece on the deregulation of the oil companies when this first happened. I find it beyond frustrating that most Americans do not care about the reality of the situation or the history. Left or Right, we should search for accuracy and truth, and not something that fits our preconceived ideology. Believe me, I face this in myself when I wrote about the war. It’s tough.

    Your second reply indicated more clearly to me that you were honestly trying to debate something. I appreciate your attitude. I thought Dee provided some really great insight into this issue, so I’m glad you brought it up.

  20. Apparently I was unwise in my choice of the term “mirror image.” A mirror provides a reverse image, not a photographic image. Left becomes right, right becomes left. I was trying to say that the two events were opposites of one another, not the same. In fact, I never compared Bush and Obama, I compared the Spill to Katrina, but I ignited a firestorm as if I had. I never even mentioned Bush, and didn’t mention President Obama until the second paragraph. I don’t find many similarities between Presidents Bush and Obama, other than some rather progressive and big government tendencies on the part of Mr. Bush.

    Apologies for my apparent lack of clarity. Can I please be off the hook for this one?

    I think as time goes on we will discover that there are two George Bushes, one who lives and breathes, and one who was defined by a press who hates him. No, I don’t think he was perfect, but just to give a couple examples of the hyperbole that has surrounded him: One of the things that makes him the worst president (if not the worst human being) in a hundred years is that he was a spoiled rich kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth. At the time he assumed the presidency he was worth $10 million. Just to put that figure in perspective, Rahm Emanuel made $16 million in one year working for Goldman Sachs, and President Obama made $5 million last year.

    If I may be permitted another example, Mr. Bush is frequently quoted as having said,”The constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper. Quit waving it in my face.” If one does a web search, the only source for that quote is a single blogger who has a history of making false statements and who cannot name a single person who heard that remark.

    I much more easily take seriously comments like those of DeeinOK than the mixture of mispellings and f-bombs that so frequently characterize rather extreme statements about what spawn of Satan anyone other than a liberal is. Presidents Obama and Bush are both human beings, with their respective strengths and weaknesses. We all have our preferences, but I don’t think that makes either side sub-human.

    Best to you, Jason, Sarah, Dee.

  21. Thank you Sarah. It’s interesting how the conservative logic chain works here: Govt has no right to say you can’t drill, but government DOES have to take the blame if the drilling goes bad? How does that work, exactly, Joseph.

    Secondly, it doesn’t matter who founded the first public library as libraries are tax funded, and were in Carnegie’s day as well. A fact you don’t mention is that Carnegie would not build a library until a community had guaranteed tax support for the library.

    And we all know that tax support of libraries, interstates, etc., is socialist.

    A final word about the oil spill. Had government pushed BP harder, you can be damned sure the conservative news media (which is most of it) would have ensured President Obama was roasted for attacking poor corporate giant BP. In fact, the president was attacked anyway, and in one notable incident a Republican politician APOLOGIZED TO BP.

    And yes, BP is about half-American-owned though headquartered in Britain. I stand corrected. There is virtually no difference between 50 and 49.

  22. I agree. Hysterical. What was dignified about President Bush? He was bellicose and small minded and had less understanding of the English language than Sarah Palin. He knew nothing about diplomacy, thought he was king, not president, and ran our country into the ground while pissing off all the others. We’re still digging ourselves out and likely will be 20 years from now.

  23. I’m sorry, but what??? Please explain how the press hated Bush. Explain how this notion fits in with the press letting Bush get away with lie after lie. Do you remember the press corps post 9.11?

    I read your pro Beck comments on the other thread. You might not be rude, but this is craziness. It’s not a matter of opinion. There are facts. Bush was beloved and adored by the press corps and all sane people are aware of how this fact contributed to the invasion.

  24. BP is a global company and the point is still the same re jurisdiction and for that matter, where the money goes and just who this is benefiting. Just like most global companies, there is no single investor with clear control, and no country which can claim a majority ownership, although if you want to be technical, the EU appears to own approx 50% making it a foreign owned company by majority over the other countries’ stock holders which are smaller in percentage.

    But then there’s the issue of the stock price plummeting and what was the huge exposure of British pension funds to BP – and the resulting outcry. One can hardly claim they are an American company when Tory Boris Johnson was demanding Obama get the American press to tone it down so the British investment BP wouldn’t be vulnerable to more risk. Johnson went to so far as to refer to BP criticism as “anti British rhetoric”.

    In what can only be seen as conservatives on both sides of the pond playing similar games, Johnson also suggested that BP should not be blamed for the spill, even though they had appointed a dead person to be the recommended expert in case of trouble. Any criticism of BP brought British (and American) conservatives out to defend the company.

    They then accused the President of being a bigot and a xenophobe for holding BP accountable, much like Sarah Palin takes umbrage when you ask her what she reads. Yes, this is YOUR fault, not hers. And never mind the bad management of BP, when the stock prices fall it’s the American President’s fault for daring to hold them accountable and he must be a bigot for doing so. A bigot against the Brits? Yes. So they do get Fox over there and the rich white people are also terrified of being unfairly treated due to their race and nationality. What with all of the problems aimed at wealthy white Brits.

    BP only owned 65% of Deepwater Horizon rig but they are still responsible. US contractors like Cheney’s Halliburton shared some of the blame, but they are not responsible for the clean up.

    IF we are getting picky about percentages over perception, should we also look at assets? BP agreed to sell U.S., Canada and Egypt assets to Apache in order to pay off part of the spill costs.

    The point? You are more than right to call them a non-American company. 40 percent British owned which is the largest majority and obviously the Brits agree with your assessment.

  25. Exactly, Sarah, and excellent points all. It’s not surprising which way FOX leans, or the Tea Party, both being billionaire-funded groups…It’s sad to see the downtrodden victims being caught up in the defend the rich corporations rhetoric.

  26. English Saddle, I am in agreement with you. The old “left-wing media” and “liberal media elite” crap is just that – crap. It’s simply not true. MSNBC is the liberal equivalent of FOX. The media, unlike the country, is right-leaning, and the media demonstrably did not hate George W. Bush.

    As to the Beck comments on the other thread, I am also in agreement. A pretense of reasonableness is not reasonableness.

  27. There are a lot of polls out there. There’s also the very real factor of time impacting the level of pain people recall.

    There is no comparison to be made between Katrina and BP disaster.

    You are clearly trying to exonerate Bush by prosecuting Obama, but you’re making false equivalencies and the agenda is transparent.

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