Bozell Column: Politicizing Hurricanes, Again
Al Sharpton has never found a crisis he couldn’t exploit – even when they don’t exist – his claim to fame. On Friday’s pre-hurricane episode of his MSNBC show, he warned “Hurricane Irene is nonpartisan” and was threatening both red and blue states. That nonpartisanship doesn’t extend to hurricane coverage on TV, where liberals once again boast about the glories of government disaster aid, and conservatives are trashed as lunatics for wanting to limit the untrammeled growth of spending on natural disasters.
Sharpton began his show by announcing “the desperate race to get ready and keep people safe reminds us all how essential our government is.” Nonsense. It reminds us how essential personal responsibility is.
Then he turned to former Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell and asked “What is your take on this anti-government rhetoric in the middle of this crisis, unprecedented crisis for people on the East Coast?”
Unprecedented? Hurricane Irene was frightening and had a death toll that stands at 37. But compared to hurricanes like Katrina and Rita, she was a nuisance. Hysteria politics was definitely overcoming the reality which had yet to occur. Rendell replied: “It is absolutely stunning, Al. It reminds me of the saying, ‘The inmates are running the asylum.’ It’s lunacy.”
Both men were referring to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor asking for spending offsets to the expected federal hurricane relief train that’s coming. That’s hardly “lunacy” when the projected deficit for this year is $1.3 trillion, and the country’s flat broke.
Rendell next slammed Rick Perry’s campaign promise to make Washington “inconsequential” and repeated himself. “These guys are absolutely nuts.
Sharpton also brought on Dana Milbank of The Washington Post to beat this dead horse into paste. “In the abstract, people say Big Government is a bad thing, you need to shrink the government,” he lectured. “Now we see what Big Government is. Big Government is the satellites that give you these images and this data so we know where the storm is going. And Big Government is FEMA and all the others who step in to help people when they’re hurt by this.”
While Cantor and Perry were painted as loons, but Democrats were portrayed as the dictionary definition of responsiveness. On Sunday, NBC “Meet the Press” host David Gregory read George W. Bush’s Katrina regrets from his memoir and then expressed delight at the Twitter messages of liberal Newark mayor Cory Booker. “Heading on a pizza run. I'm going to deliver 10 pizzas to those standing in our shelter at JFK,” boasted the mayor. Gregory turned to a radical-left professor guest with a please-bash-Bush softball. “If you have the contrast, Michael Eric Dyson, between President Bush regretting the fact that he did a flyover of the storm zone, and here's Mayor Booker personally delivering pizzas.”
Last December, NBC offered the same gooey congratulations to Newark’s mayor during a massive snowstorm. “Nightly News” anchorman Brian Williams celebrated Booker as a “one-man snow removal machine,” shoveling constituent sidewalks and helping get an ambulance to a dialysis patient.
But the most jaw-dropping hurricane spin preceding Irene came when several networks presented Ray Nagin, the famously incompetent mayor of New Orleans, as an expert on hurricane preparedness. The networks forgot, but people remembered the pictures of a lot filled with flooded buses never used to evacuate the poor, and news of the mayor who fled Katrina for the safety of Dallas. Jokes immediately popped up on Twitter. “Bringing on Ray Nagin to talk about hurricane preparedness is like bringing on Michael Moore to talk about weight loss.”
On Friday morning, CBS “Early Show” host Chris Wragge not only failed to ask Nagin about his failures in New Orleans, but called him an “expert in the field” twice and concluded by oozing to Nagin, “if people aren't heeding the advice of their local officials, they should definitely heed your advice.”
On Friday afternoon, MSNBC interviewed Nagin...twice. “Hardball” substitute host Chris Jansing made a complete mockery of the show’s name by never asking Nagin about his own failures, getting no closer to reality than asking, “Do you think that there are lessons learned from Katrina that can make this one not so bad? Not so painful?”
At least mid-afternoon anchor Martin Bashir asked Nagin to accept blame for his own failures during Katrina, albeit after touting him as an expert who’d arrived to “explain what leaders must do to avoid the mistakes that were made six years ago."
You turn on the TV because you just want to track the storm. Instead, you have to brace for another thunderous surge of insufferable analysis and lectures about how crazy conservatives don’t care if people live or die.