A major event that would damage Barack Obama’s presidency as much as Hurricane Katrina did George W. Bush’s is a white whale for conservatives, suggests The New Republic’s Brian Beutler: They’re constantly, eagerly scanning the horizon for it, but they’ll never see it.
Beutler finds it hard to imagine that any Democratic president would have his or her own Katrina, since Dems have made responding to natural disasters a high priority. Not so the pro-small government, austerity-driven Republicans, who are “ideologically ill-suited to meet [that] challenge.”
According to Beutler, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was in fine shape when Bill Clinton left the White House, but “when Bush became president, he neglected FEMA before…stripping it of its disaster-preparedness function, and appointing a crony to run it.” Obama, “unencumbered ideologically, and unwilling to allow a natural disaster to unravel his presidency…rebuilt FEMA…His agency has been praised everywhere it has been deployed, by Republican and Democratic governors alike.”
As for disaster response under a President Trump, Beutler opines that it’d be “horrendous” and indicates that we got somewhat of a preview in 2011, when “House Republicans attempted to establish the precedent that supplemental disaster relief spending must be offset with cuts to discretionary programs that disproportionately help the poor…If Republicans somehow win the presidency this year, we can be fairly certain how highly they’d prioritize disaster relief, because they’ve told us repeatedly.”
Beutler claims that Republicans prefer smearing the opposition to adjusting their attitude on the issue (bolding added):
The Obama’s Katrina genre endures in futility [because of an] unwholesome mixture of a press corps obsessed with optics and a conservative establishment reeling from its own failures…
…From the GOP’s perspective, covering others in the stink of their failures is easier than righting those failures.
Republicans could rehabilitate the public image problem they inflicted upon themselves in 2005 by committing to managing bureaucracies effectively and giving federal agencies the resources they need to succeed. But they don’t particularly want to do that; and in any case it’s much easier to pretend that every disaster Obama manages is effectively his latest Katrina.