Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Greg Saunders Headshot

The Shameful Irony of McCain's New Orleans Speech

Posted: Updated:
For all of the vitriol that I've thrown in Hillary Clinton's direction, it's nothing compared to my contempt for John McCain. I don't know if he's been a millionaire in Washington D.C. for so long that it makes him completely tone deaf to the experiences of others or if he's just a world class dickhead, but it takes a superhuman level of gall for him to go to New Orleans, which still hasn't fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and say this:

The wrong change looks not to the future but to the past for solutions that have failed us before and will surely fail us again. I have a few years on my opponent, so I am surprised that a young man has bought in to so many failed ideas. Like others before him, he seems to think government is the answer to every problem; that government should take our resources and make our decisions for us. That type of change doesn't trust Americans to know what is right or what is in their own best interests. It's the attitude of politicians who are sure of themselves but have little faith in the wisdom, decency and common sense of free people. That attitude created the unresponsive bureaucracies of big government in the first place. And that's not change we can believe in.

Here's a shining example of what happens when McCain is called upon to break with his party and fix the "unresponsive bureaucracies of big government" (via Mark Ambinder):

mccain-katrina.png

That was McCain in 2005, two weeks after the destruction of New Orleans, voting in lockstep with his party to avoid investigating just what went wrong. The same John McCain who had the temerity to use New Orleans as a backdrop to bash Barack Obama joined George W. Bush in his opposition to a plan to "examine the Federal, State, and local response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina...and make immediate corrective measures to improve such responses in the future".

Two and a half years later, in general election mode, John McCain changed his tune :

"We know we didn't have the right kind of leadership ... where government agencies were getting information from watching cable television rather than have a flow of information," McCain said during an event at Xavier University in New Orleans.

"It was not only a perfect storm as far as its physical impact ... it was a perfect storm as far as the federal, state and local governments' inability."

"Never again will there be a mismanaged natural disaster," he said, later assuring the crowd that "it will never happen again in this country; you have my commitment and my promise."

John McCain has always had the "guts" to break ranks with his party and say the obvious when he's being flattered by the media and if it's politically convenient, but when the people of New Orleans needed him, he refused to take a stand against his President and party and demand answers. Of course, holding the President's feet to the fire might just invite unpleasant reminders about what both men were doing while the people of New Orleans were drowning and the rest of us were glued to our televisions :

bushmccainkatrina.jpg

While citizens in the Gulf Coast were begging for help, John McCain had a birthday party. Two weeks later, when the American people demanded answers, he joined his fellow Republicans in helping protect the President. Now that he's running for President, he finally recognizes the "perfect storm" of governmental failure, but do we really want a President who stands in the way of government accountability?

John McCain is in the midst of trying to give voters the impression that he, like Barack Obama, is an agent of change, but when the American people needed him to show some leadership, he failed. If John McCain was the great leader he claims to be, he would have supported the Clinton-sponsored and Obama-supported efforts to examine the failures at every level of government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I suppose we should be grateful that John McCain eventually realized what a monumental disaster Katrina's wake represented, but as far as I'm concerned, changing your mind long after you could have made a difference is the "wrong kind of change".