Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bush response to Katrina: turn Louisiana Red

In this post, Digby argues that Bush's disastrous response to hurricane Katrina was not incompetence, but in fact a deliberate (and successful) attempt by Karl Rove to push Louisiana into the Republican column:

Louisiana has been a swing state for some time, in which Democrats were dependent on the black majority in the state's largest city to win. It was not lost on Rove that all of those poor New Orleans African Americans --- and their children --- being dispersed throughout the nation could only be good for Republicans. As of now, only about 66% have returned, not enough to keep the state swinging (in more ways than one.) It looks very likely that the state will have a Republican Governor and two Republican Senators in 2008. Experts in the area estimate that the congressional delegation advantage for Republicans will be five to one by 2012. There is little doubt that the Katrina diaspora finally turned the state blood red.

Kanye West famously blurted out "Bush doesn't care about black people" at a Katrina fundraiser and shocked everyone with his blunt assessment. But we could all see why he would think that. Bush had failed to even acknowledge the hurricane for days and refused to cut short his vacation. He told his disastrously incompetent FEMA head he was doing a "heckuva job" and seemed cavalier about the fact that people were expiring on the sidewalk in New Orleans. His strongest statements seemed to be against looting. Indeed, it appeared that he was quite content to let the catastrophe unfold in slow motion on the world's TV screens.

You can't blame West for thinking he didn't care. But it was likely far more cynical than that. Rove was busy counting votes that day he and the president flew over the city and he undoubtedly knew that an opportunity presented itself if New Orleans were destroyed. And he knew something else too: that if certain people heard tales of African Americans lawlessly marauding through the streets and saw hours of footage of poor black women with children it would successfully tweak the southern racist lizard brain to solidify those gains.

It's a pretty frightening conjecture, but it seems to fit the facts. We know the Bush White House is capable of dramatic, quick action: witness its lightning response to the Terri Schiavo affair. Why so slow in response to Katrina? And why put Karl Rove at the head of the effort if political considerations were not foremost?

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