Tempers flare over New Orleans tragedy

Sunday, September 4, 2005

The handling of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, considered by many to be inadequate, has prompted scathing criticism of American politicians. President Bush was criticized for verbally "pandering" to public opinion, while little is done about the tragedy. In a WWL radio interview, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called for a "moratorium on press conferences" and said, "[The government is] feeding the public a line of bull, and they are spinning, and people are dying." The mayor has since apologised for these remarks. However, the mayor did not address his own alleged failure to evacuate his citizens when he reportedly left hundreds of city-controlled buses idle.

Malik Rahim, a recent Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council, describes the poor organization as criminal, and called for his party to come help when the federal government would permit it. Grammy award-winning rapper Kanye West created controversy when he said "George Bush doesn't care about black people" and that "America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible" in a telethon for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Onsite television news reporters have also levied very harsh criticism against the politicians whom they were interviewing. Anderson Cooper (CNN) took Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., Louisiana) to task for her detachment (WMV, trancsript). Andrea Mitchell (MSNBC), Bill O'Reilly (FOX), Geraldo Rivera (FOX), Scarborough (MSNBC), Shepard Smith (FOX), Robert Siegel (NPR), and Paula Zahn (CNN) have also harshly criticized their interviewees (WMV). One broadcaster bitterly exclaimed "The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better."

In a press release issued September 3rd, 2005, Democratic Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana claims that President Bush staged a photo opportunity by having rescue equipment quickly moved into the background during the event. Senator Landrieu claims the equipment was dispersed elsewhere the next day. Landrieu says in her press release, " ... we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government ..." The breached levee was closed on Monday by a sequence of dump trucks building a narrow pathway across the gap toward helicopter-dropped sandbags.

Some responses, however, have concerned themselves not with criticizing the response, but praising the hurricane itself. The American Family Association's Agape Press published praise for the hurricane's destruction as an instrument of God's mercy, in that it "wiped out rampant sin". Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, said "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again." "New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says.