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Obama in New Orleans: Been and Gone and Got It Wrong

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LONDON--Thanks to WWL-TV, I watched the Obama Town Hall in New Orleans live.  Clearly the people in the room enjoyed being in his presence.  But, for those of us looking for even the semblance of substance, for just the sign that this President is not as clueless about the situation as the last President was, frankly, he could have saved the jet fuel.

Think I'm being too harsh? Here's how the President opened his prepared remarks:

“Katrina may have swept through this city, but it did not destroy this community, and that is because of you, the people of New Orleans. It has now been just over 4 years since that terrible storm struck your shores. And the days after it did, this nation and all the world were witness to the fact that the damage from Katrina was not caused just by a disaster of nature but also by a breakdown of government.  That the government wasn’t adequately prepared and we didn’t adequately respond.”

You couldn't get it more wrong.  "Katrina," the hurricane, didn't "sweep through" New Orleans, it landed, at most, a glancing sidelong blow.  "That terrible storm" was, at landfall, a Category 3; when it passed by New Orleans, it was a strong Cat 1 or a weak Cat 2.  It did do terrible damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but Obama was talking about its impact on New Orleans. 

The "damage" was not caused "just by a disaster of nature" at all; two independent engineering reports (the ILIT report from UC Berkeley and the Team Louisiana report from LSU) agreed that the damage was caused by the catastrophic breaching, in more than fifty locations, of an improperly-designed and built "hurricane protection system" (derided by its own builder, the Corps of Engineers, as "a system in name only"), under storm surge pressure considerably weaker than the system was supposedly designed to withstand. 

"The government wasn't adequately prepared and we didn't adequately respond" echoes Obama's campaign rhetoric about the aftermath of the disaster; his other remarks display a glaring, and for such an intellectually voracious and insightful man, quite possibly knowing ignorance of how we got here.

Typically, having 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 the steps only the federal government, under strong leadership from a committed chief executive, can take to prevent the disaster from recurring.

Hope he enjoyed his gumbo.

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