Do the ladies and gentlemen of the Sun Herald editorial board read Harry Shearer at the Huff Po or have they been climbing Editilla’s Ladder (thanks to citizen-activists like Cresent City Ray)? Whoever turned them on to Shearer’s spot on criticisms of President Obama’s last visit deserves an A+ as Saturday’s Sun Herald contained a spot on editorial that echos much of what has been said on the Ladder, here on Slabbed and many other local cyber venues regarding Obama’s Tinkle-Stop Tour visit to the Big Easy last week:
During his historic run for the presidency, Barack Obama’s campaign consistently outmaneuvered the opposition, whether fellow Democrats in his party primary or John McCain in the general election.
He was engaged, decisive, and especially in tune with the mood of the electorate and its sense of national priorities.
Time and time again he invoked the image of Republican failure in handling Katrina’s impact on a vast Gulf Coast population.
Fast-forward nine months into his presidency, and President Barack Obama has made his first post-inauguration visit to New Orleans — a visit that seemed to many more like a drive-through or photo op.
Author/actor Harry Shearer, a strong advocate for New Orleans, said, “he could have saved the jet fuel.”
Shearer said the president’s remarks Thursday “mis- or non-diagnosed the problem. [He] came with no solution, no pledge (aside from the vaporous ‘build stronger,’ without reference to build what, how, by whom) to take steps only the federal government, under strong leadership from a committed chief executive, can take to prevent the disaster from recurring. … Hope he enjoyed the gumbo.”
Joe Scarborough, a former Florida congressman and now host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” who has continued to pay attention to the Mississippi aspect of Katrina, recognized in advance of the president’s New Orleans trip that it was too little and too late in response to a slowed Katrina recovery.
“Tone deaf,” Scarborough said of the president’s failure to treat the Katrina question with greater attention and concern.
The president countered by saying that his Cabinet members have visited the Gulf Coast “almost more” than any other region of the country. He pledged, “We will never forget about the Gulf Coast. Together we will rebuild this region and we will rebuild it stronger than before.”
That is perhaps a heartfelt expression, but you can find those faded bumper stickers all across the Mississippi Coast, dating back to President Bush’s similar pronouncements.
There is a power in the presidency that is part of the answer to “why” a person seeks such an office. Some discover that once they obtain the prize, they may not wish to own all of the encumbrances attached to it, such as keeping campaign promises and trying to answer the sometimes uncomfortable questions, like those involving Katrina.
For those who live here, there is a depth of knowledge that has come with four years of living in this field of debris and disappointment.
A great many, even in New Orleans and Mississippi, have moved on, but there are far too many left behind, lost in the complexities of insurance hell and the search for affordable housing.
Consequences include the growing tide of drug use, physical and mental health struggles, even suicides. We are not the place we used to be, and the question that the president can help to answer is: will we ever be?
Ordinary people find in our political leaders hope and the occasional belief that, once elected, they can make a difference. Candidate Obama inspired a great many Americans with the theme of “Yes, we can!” It inspired in them the belief that, with Obama’s leadership in the Oval Office, the things he put forth as goals for the country during his campaign could be achieved. And Katrina recovery had a place of importance on the “Yes, we can!” roster.
The president may be surprised that he has received criticism for his Katrina response. He shouldn’t be, because during his campaign he demonstrated better than almost any other candidate in the media age that he is capable of understanding problems and articulating a vision. A majority of Americans endorsed that vision with their votes in November.
As the days hurtle toward the first winter of his presidency, the national discontent grows as performance is evaluated against the campaign slogans.
The president’s first Katrina trip seemed incomplete, at best, giving thought to another, during which he can include Mississippi and concrete answers in his strategy for success.