And on Meet the Press this weekend, David Gregory asked Bush this canard of a question: “What did you learn in your government’s response to the tsunami, to the disaster response to Katrina, that this administration should bear in mind?”
It is fair to ask a guy who helmed an unsuccessful relief effort about lessons learned from his failures. And Obama has made clear that the American government and its citizens are morally obligated to help those reeling from tragedy. But the question conflates that sort of voluntary relief effort (tsunami) with the government’s legal contract to govern and protect its people in domestic disasters (Katrina). Two very different things.
Reporters would do well to remember that Katrina was marked by government inefficiency and snafus. Katrina was shocking for the very fact that it happened in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world. We saw it coming from miles away and the government-led evacuation before the storm and rescue after it should have been swift and effective. Instead, the safety net failed the Gulf Coast victims of Katrina.
But the earthquake in Haiti … happened in Haiti, where even before the quake, the government was weak, and where little things we take for granted—like ambulances in an emergency—were a rare sight. Where, though it was slowly being woven together, there was no safety net in place to begin with.
Take it from the paper of record in the city most devastated by Katrina and the failed levees. As the Times-Picayune editorial board wrote in a recent editorial urging aid to the Caribbean nation, the earthquake is “Haiti’s Katrina.”
It’s not the other way around.