Obama rips U.S. effort after Katrina

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By Mike Dorning
Chicago Tribune national correspondent

January 30, 2007

NEW ORLEANS — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama blasted the Bush administration Monday for the slow pace of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, saying reconstruction no longer seems to be a White House priority.

“There is not a sense of urgency in this administration to get this done,” said the senator from Illinois. “You get a sense that will has been lacking in the last several months.”

Obama, the Senate’s only African-American member, was in New Orleans for a field hearing on Gulf Coast rebuilding conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In the days after Katrina hit, the devastation of New Orleans and the botched federal response turned into a dramatic international emblem for charges of incompetence in the administration and of indifference to the plight of poor people, particularly blacks and other minorities. The flooding and tardy rescue efforts had the greatest impact on low-income black residents, many of whom did not have personal transportation or financial resources to evacuate easily on their own.

The broken homes and vacant streets of the city’s flood-damaged neighborhoods remain a potent political symbol. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards kicked off his campaign in December outside a damaged home in one hard-hit neighborhood.

After Monday’s field hearing, the Senate committee took a bus tour of the city’s Lower 9th Ward, a low-income black neighborhood where many ruined homes sit empty and bear the painted X-marks used in the chaotic weeks after the hurricane to show they had been searched for survivors.

Mayor compares city, Iraq

Testifying to the committee, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said he still doesn’t see “the will to really fix” his city and suggested that race was a factor.

“I think it’s more class than anything, but there’s racial issues associated with it also,” said Nagin, who is black.

Nagin complained that disputes with federal officials over the value of damaged buildings and cumbersome paperwork have slowed the money flow.

“And then I look at what we’re doing in Iraq and how we spend money at an unprecedented level there, how we can set up temporary hospitals and designate money to rebuild their economy, and we have this dance going on in New Orleans,” he said.

The hearing is one of the first that the Homeland Security Committee has scheduled since the Senate passed to Democratic control. No Republican members attended.

The session follows criticism of Bush for not including any mention of the New Orleans recovery effort in last week’s State of the Union address. Obama echoed that criticism, noting that Bush had traveled to the city shortly after the disaster and promised to do “what it takes . . . as long as it takes” to rebuild New Orleans.

But “17 months later, we heard not a single word, not one word in President Bush’s State of the Union address,” Obama said. “Those of us who are concerned all across the country wonder if we’re in danger of forgetting about New Orleans, and that’s shameful.”

Federal officials involved with rebuilding efforts defended their work in testimony before the committee. Donald Powell, federal coordinator for Gulf Coast reconstruction for the Department of Homeland Security, said that when the history of the recovery effort is written “it will also be a story of modern renaissance.”

“President Bush is committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast and rebuilding it better and stronger,” Powell said.

8 thoughts on “Obama rips U.S. effort after Katrina

  1. Let’s see.

    90,000 homes, 12.000 scools and public buildings, massive uninsured losses, largest natural catastrophe in American history covering 3 states.

    And it’s not all done yet??

    Lazy pigs. Impeach Bush and hang him Saddam style.
    Everyone knows all white people are secretly Klan members.

    Maybe the mayor of chocolate town could pitch in and Democrats would quit playing the race card to pander for votes.

    yeah, right.

  2. For the record, I despise Ray Nagin because he is a clueless, right-wing, pussy who kisses up to the business community while allowing his people to drown. He had a responsibility to have a full-scale evacuation plan to save people. He did not. He kept taxes low and starved his emergency management of the funds necessary to carry out a full evacuation. I blame him for the disaster in New Orleans. The same goes for Gov. Blanco who would rather label the victims of government neglect as “looters” and have them shot, than provide them with food, water, and evacuation assistance. She will lose this election this year because she is incompetent.

    As for Bush, the decider decided to hook up a bunch of large contractors and campaign contributors with no-bid contracts to provide an array of services they never provided. If you weren’t in thrall to an extreme right-wing ideology, you’d realize that and stop defending the indefensible.

    I do not now, nor have I ever believed that all white people are racists. I do, however, have some doubts about you.

  3. Hi

    Kind of difficult proving your NOT something bud, so accuse away. Besides, maybe you missed the attempt at humor.

    Rays a joke I agree and for the same reasons, however the slap about right wing I’m sure would upset the poor guy.

    Im enthralled with America. If you see the county as evil, racist, greedy and corrupt, you have no prayer of understanding my genuine love for the nation.

    Sometimes removing the branch from our own eye before insisting the speck is removed from anothers eye can be a growing experience yielding a lifetime of reward and benefit.

    Sen. Obama represents the same old tired left wing socialism, hardly a breahth of fresh air.

    Thanks for returning my comment.

  4. rikyrah

    SB, you really think Blanco is gonna lose to the Indian Congressman running against her?

    If this were South Africa, Nagin would have been ‘necklaced’ a long time ago.

  5. According some, NOLA, Barack did not make it down to the Crescent City until June or July after the hurricane. That’s almost the NEXT hurricane season. But hey, what the heck.

    bd

  6. CaptFriday

    SB, I don’t like Nagin either, and I’m sure he could have done a lot more, but to be fair, in order to evacuate you’ve got to have a place to evacuate to. He only has authority in New Orleans, and with Bush not giving a damn and authorities in surrounding communities shooting at people who were trying to get out of NO, there’s no guarantee that any buses they tried to send out would not have been refused entry to other communities and sent right back. Evacuating a major city is a major undertaking and far more than a guy with limited authority could handle even in the best of circumstances imo. Bush can call Houston and order them to let the buses through (with the force to back the order up if necessary), but even a mayor who weren’t a right wing hack can’t do that.

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