John McCain described his intention to reach out to the "Black Belt" including African Americans, displaced factory workers and people living in poverty according to USA Today, as well as "also trying to make it to New Orleans, which is still recovering from 2005's Hurricane Katrina."
Trying to make it? He was here last month for a fundraising talk that no one outside of the New Orleans Airport Holiday Inn was able to hear. That followed a speech to the conservative Council for National Policy at the Ritz. McCain managed to not get caught on tape at either private appearance saying anything that could cause a scandal, which makes him the only one of the three major presidential candidates so far not taped and leaked. In a city that needs a public, not private, show of support, though, the exclusive appearances seem a bit of a scandal. Indeed, if McCain had ventured beyond the hotel conference rooms, he would have discovered that there is in fact a major leak he should have been addressing: the one at the city's 17th Street Canal Floodwall.
As the Huffington Post's Harry Shearer has pointed out, water is seeping into the same spot as it was before Hurricane Katrina. Before the storm, residents were told not to worry about the water in their back yards. Then Katrina hit Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the 17th Street Canal Levee in New Orleans failed. On the other side of town, a barge slammed into the Industrial Canal and flooded the 9th Ward, or it was blown to alleviate pressure in other parts of the city -- a theory held by some residents interviewed in Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke." You can rent the film and decide for yourself.
While McCain tries to make it to New Orleans, which is not hard to find by the way, the USA Today article quotes former GOP aide John Pitney:
"A lot of moderate white voters want a president who can reach out to the disadvantaged. So McCain has to show he's making the effort."
Making an effort in New Orleans would involve addressing its infrastructure at the very least as it is a vital port for defense and export, even for those not interested in helping save the city's irreplaceable culture. Almost three years post-Katrina, Gulf Coast levees need to be shored up faster and with more oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers based on this new study in nola.com. More than 200,000 displaced residents are waiting to come home, and a safe levee system would assure them that the new administration will back their city's full recovery. But like Edwards' campaign for poverty awareness, repairing our country's infrastructure has long been overshadowed with wedge issues.
Not surprisingly, New Orleans recovery was not significantly addressed at the ABC debate, and it's a safe bet that George Stephanopoulos has no questions to that effect lined up for McCain on Sunday. If he's taking questions from anyone other than Sean Hannity, "Do you plan to invest any of Cindy's $100 million in beer money for a 9th Ward Make it Right home?" would be a great opener.
Before gaffegate kicks off again, and we all know it will, it is past time that this particular water gate goes viral. All three remaining candidates need to address the one leak that must and can be repaired in this spiraling campaign season.