Rachel Maddow More Shameless Than Speechless in Contorting Jindal's Remarks on Katrina


MSNBC cable-show host Rachel Maddow shares much in common with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Both are wonkish former Rhodes scholars in their mid-30s, bright and personable. Each could be perceived as a political outsider, Maddow for being openly gay, Jindal by dint of skin hue and ethnicity.

Their politics are poles apart, however, with Maddow an unabashed liberal and Jindal a staunch conservative. And that Maddow views Jindal as a threat became clear this week.

After Jindal delivered the Republican response to President Obama's address before Congress on Tuesday, he became the recipient of withering criticism from both sides of the aisle. Maddow's critique of Jindal, however, was so over the top that it bore little resemblance to what Jindal actually said --

MADDOW: In the jaw-dropping comment of the night, Gov. Jindal went on to invoke government failure during Hurricane Katrina as a model for how to understand how we should move forward as a country.

JINDAL: Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.

MADDOW (makes weird sounds of mock anguish): I thought I could come up with words again, hearing it the second time around. Honestly I can't. The idea being that since government failed during Hurricane Katrina, we should understand not that government should not be allowed to fail again, but that government is inherently fail (sic), that government never works, that government can't work and therefore we should stop seeking a functioning government. Stunning.

"Stunning" comes to mind when one sees how Maddow edited the segment to deprive  viewers of what Jindal said next, which was this --

JINDAL: Let me tell you a story. During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I had never seen him so angry. He was literally yelling into the phone. 'Well I'm the sheriff and if you don't like it, you can come and arrest me!'  I asked him, 'Sheriff, what's got you so mad?' He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the flood waters. The boats were all lined up and ready to go, and then some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. And I told him, 'Sheriff, that's ridiculous.' Before I knew it, he was yelling in the phone, 'Congressman Jindal's here and he says you can come and arrest him too!' Well, Harry just told those boaters, ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people. There's a lesson in this experience. The strength of America is not found in our government. It's found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens.

Maddow's contortion of Jindal's remarks continued that night when she interviewed former Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox, a contributor to The Daily Beast and national correspondent for Air America Radio --

MADDOW: I was speechless twice in hearing the Katrina response because the implication of it is not that the lesson to have learned from Katrina is that we ought to make the government work better 'cause we need the government for some stuff, but that we don't need the government 'cause the government can't do anything. We ought to just ...

COX (interrupting): You better not trust that government!

MADDOW: Yeah! Ever!

COX: Yeah, it was a very strange, counterintuitive thing to do.

In other words, the emergency response to Katrina is an example of how residents of the Gulf Coast should have trusted government ...? 

More along the same lines from Maddow in her show Wednesday night --

MADDOW:  I was personally left sort of speechless after his speech. It wasn't just his delivery, it was his use of Hurricane Katrina as a lesson that government is not necessary, that nothing should be expected of government.

How about that, Maddow earned a doctorate in political science at Oxford and can't discern between the conservatism espoused by Jindal -- and apparently shared by many others in the historically red state of Louisiana -- and the anarchism she attributes to him. Those inclined toward politics usually learn the distinction in high school.

Jindal wasn't remotely implying, as Maddow wants her credulous viewers to believe, that "we should stop seeking a functioning government." Jindal was suggesting we should not tolerate dysfunctional government -- especially when it imperils public safety.

To Maddow, "government" in the context of Katrina is reduced to a single, easily scapegoated figure -- then-President George W. Bush, guilty most of all for not biting his lower lip on cue after Katrina struck, in the manner of Empathizer-in-Chief Bill Clinton.

Maddow is apparently also unaware that when it comes to natural disasters, emergency response obligations for government start at the local level and work their way up -- as dictated by law.

That there was plenty of blame to go around for "government" failure in response to Katrina was described in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Sept. 6, 2005, one week after the storm, and written by Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation public policy research organization --

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his/her emergency operations center.

Here's how then-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Democrats both, handled these responsibilities, as described by Williams --

... Local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.

A year ago, as Hurricane Ivan approached, New Orleans ordered an evacuation but did not use city or school buses to help people evacuate. As a result many of the poorest citizens were unable to evacuate. Fortunately, the hurricane changed course and did not hit New Orleans, but both Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin acknowledged the need for a better evacuation plan. In 1998, during a threat by Hurricane George, 14,000 people were sent to the Superdome and theft and security were rampant due to inadequate security. Again, these problems were not corrected ...

... Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the manndatory evacuation.

The city's evacuation plan states: 'The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas.' But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded ...

... I am not attempting to excuse some of the delays in FEMA's response. Congress and the president need to take corrective action there, also. However, if citizens expect FEMA to be a first responder to terrorist attacks or other local emergencies (earthquakes, forest fires, volcanoes), they will be disappointed. The federal government's role is to offer aid upon request.

It wasn't what Jindal said about Katrina that raised Maddow's hackles. It was that as a Republican, he dared say anything about it. Liberals staked a proprietary claim to Katrina years ago and any conservative crossing into their perceived property is automatically guilty, if only of trespassing.

Left wingers do the same when it comes to race, while also decrying an alleged lack of discourse on the subject (Most recent example: Attorney General Eric Holder's "nation of cowards" slander). Indeed, so-called progressives want ever more "dialogue" on Katrina, race, gender, etc. -- the more "candid" the better -- followed by liberals condemning conservatives who follow suit as racist, insensitive, pathological, etc. See how it works?

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts