On Monday night, Politico posted two stories with the same theme: Tropical Storm Isaac seriously threatens to ruin the Republican convention and remind voters of Republican incompetence during hurricanes. Does anyone think this outfit is fair and balanced?
In the story “GOP fears ghost of Hurricane Katrina at RNC 2012,” Politico's Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman just keep skipping over the Democratic mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic governor of Louisiana as they predict the most damaging political scenario they can hope for, er, imagine as the storm spared the GOP convention site in Tampa:
[P]arty officials and convention planners are increasingly anxious about a different and possibly more damaging scenario: a split-screen broadcast of Republicans partying in Tampa alongside images of serious storm damage in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi.
Some Republicans here worry the juxtaposition of events could revive memories of the disastrous 2005 storms — Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — and the government’s terrible handling of them.
Public outrage over the George W. Bush administration’s response to those catastrophes — Katrina especially — shadowed the president and the GOP for years. For Republicans, Katrina is their version of the Carter administration’s failed Iranian hostage rescue in 1980 — an enduring symbol of collective incompetence, a political wound that will not heal.
For the 2012 convention to move ahead amid another Gulf Coast disaster could make Romney and his supporters look oblivious to the plight of the victims — or at the very least, leave them competing for media attention for a full week with a disaster response effort.
The other story is headlined "Obama's storm warning," and in that piece, Politico's Glenn Thrush and Darren Samuelsohn channel the usual liberal feeling of superiority that proponents of limited government can't possibly look good during a natural disaster:
TAMPA, Fla. — Hurricane Katrina wasn’t just a storm to Barack Obama. It was a Category 5 metaphor for what happens when a Republican administration is so hostile to a functional federal government that it leaves regular people unprotected and alone.
Nearly seven years to the day after Katrina, Obama confronts another hurricane bearing down on New Orleans. And the Republican convention celebrates Mitt Romney, whose commitment to shrinking — and poor-mouthing — big government deeply reflects the tea party sentiments of a GOP base keen on cutting Washington.
The course and intensity of the storm are beyond Obama’s control, but the way he handles the possible crisis isn’t. A week away from his own convention in Charlotte, N.C., Obama is intent on responding energetically, not just to highlight his own fitness to lead but also to bolster his larger argument that the federal government has a pivotal, positive role to play in American life.
What about Obama? If there’s any problems in New Orleans, will the media all blame Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal this time around? They briefly assessed the risk:
Yet perils loom for Obama, including one unique to the convergence of the hurricane and convention seasons: the risk that the president’s well-publicized attention to storm response will be perceived as election-year grandstanding.
“This is about taking care of the problem, first and foremost, not hey-look-at-me,” a Gulf State Democrat close to Obama said. “I think Obama knows that.”
Politico reminded its readers that Obama used Katrina to bash President Bush as an insensitive white man:
In 2005, Obama — less than a year after his convention speech catapulted him to national prominence — cast the Bush administration response to Katrina in stark class terms: a failure of the wealthy to protect the poor.
“I think there were a set of assumptions made by federal officials that people would hop in their SUVs, and top off with a $100 tank of gas and [get some] Poland Spring water,” and flee the storm, Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times during a visit with Katrina refugees in Houston.
The tragedy, Obama said, revealed “how little inner-city African Americans have to fall back on. But that has been true for decades. … What I think is that we as a society and this administration in particular have not been willing to make sacrifices or shape an agenda to help low-income people,” he said.
At the story's end, Politico even used Ray Nagin to bash Bush, with no assessment of how the mayor performed:
Local officials fumed over the federal response. “Get off your asses … and let’s do something and let’s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country,” then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on a local radio program, according to press reports from Katrina.
Bush signed a $10.5 billion Katrina disaster aid package on Sept. 2 — less than a week after Katrina hit.
If Isaac packs even a fraction of the punch of the previous storm, it could also open a new debate about federal spending — at a time when Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a $1.2 trillion sequester cut on defense and nondefense budgets if Congress and the White House can’t reach a deal.
“Hurricanes remind us why we need government,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania.