The Bush administration is turning the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina into a continuing disaster.
In the wake of Katrina's fury, the president stood in the French Quarter's Jackson Square and told a stunned nation that America would do "what it takes" to reconstruct the thoroughly flooded city. But five months later, movement to coherently rebuild New Orleans seems in limbo - despite considerable federal aid and local planning.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is stonewalling a Senate investigation of what the White House did with internal government warnings before the storm hit that New Orleans could end up submerged. Worse, the administration hasn't learned Katrina's lessons for improving disaster planning, says a Government Accountability Office study released yesterday.
More fundamentally, the administration last week rejected a federally financed plan promoted by Rep. Richard H. Baker, Louisiana Republican, to partially buy out owners of New Orleans' damaged properties and resell their land to developers - a sweeping plan critical to bringing to life the recently completed, locally designed reconstruction blueprint for a smaller and more secure city.
Then, adding insult to injury, the president barely touched on New Orleans in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night
Yes, he noted that the federal government has committed $85 billion to help the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, and then he cut to rhetoric: "A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency - and stays at it until they are back on their feet." That was about it.
In the past year, a major American city suddenly was turned to ruins, three-quarters of its residents have been scattered and even its most committed returnees have been left adrift, and that is all the president has to say? There was no endorsement of a rebuilding plan, no new initiative, no alternative to leaving most of the city's flooded homeowners to fend for themselves. It was almost as though this disaster is now history - when, indeed, it very much continues.