August 27th, 2007
03:45 PM ET
12 years ago

Katrina politics

Watch CNN's Fredricka Whitfield report on Obama's visit to New Orleans.

(CNN) - The presidential campaign trail is winding through New Orleans this week. With the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this Wednesday, some of the leading White House hopefuls are visiting a city still try to rebuild from the devastating storm.

Tonight, Sen. Hillary Clinton. D-New York, and former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, are among the candidates taking part in a Katrina recovery summit in New Orleans. The summit is being hosted by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and moderated by CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

Another Democratic frontrunner, Barack Obama, was in the Crescent City Sunday. The senator from Illinois said he would make rebuilding New Orleans a top priority if he is elected president. "America failed the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans long before that failure showed up on the television set,” said Obama. “America failed you again during Katrina. We cannot and we must not fail you for a third time,"

Obama unveiled his plan to speed up recovery efforts in New Orleans. "We need to make sure that the hardest hit areas get the attention they need and that the jobs of rebuilding go to the folks who've been displaced," said the presidential hopeful. Obama also called for forgiving medical school loans for doctors who set up practice in New Orleans, and said he wants to establish a local office of the Drug Enforcement Agency to help fight crime in the city.

Tonight, rivals Clinton and Edwards will outline their plans to get New Orleans back on its feet. "I believe it's an American responsibility to rebuild New Orleans; not just one of Louisiana and New Orleans, but of all of us working together," said Clinton during a stop in New Orleans in July.

The Democratic presidential hopefuls seem to be spending a good amount of time in New Orleans. Edwards formally announced his White House bid in the city's hard-hit ninth ward last December.

So why all the attention? Because the city's plight has become a national storyline and, aside from the war in Iraq, arguably no other event damaged the Bush White House more than the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

And the Democrats realize that. Here's Edwards during a stop in New Orleans this summer: "The money is not getting to the ground. It's not getting to people who need help. I think some of it is bureaucracy. I think some if it is red tape. But these are all things the President of the United States could do something about."

- CNN Deputy Political Editor Paul Steinhauser

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. spinstopper

    No matter how much CNN, and the dems, want Katrina to be Bush's fault.., it just doesn't wash because New Orleans residents were given a 24 hr evacuation notice..

    Only fools disregard state mandated evacuation notices.

    August 27, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Carolina Dude

    Obama/Edwards OR Edwards/Obama, that's the TICKET !!

    A combination of these two candidates would send the repub candidates running for cover, and clean the WhiteHouse of the status quo.

    Together, they would bring brink back something to the presidency that it hasn't seen in a long time: a focus on the average American, instead of large corporations, special interests, and war-mongers.

    America needs a CHANGE in the worst way, NOT more of the Republican (or Hillary’s) rhetoric.

    Ba-ROCK the Vote, and get aboard John’s Lifeboat !!
    THAT’s the ticket that will save America’s sinking ship !

    August 27, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Bush bungled Katrina, but let's not forget that sane people should not rebuild in areas which are certain to be devastated again, unless we build levees to withstand more than the Cat 3 storm to which they are being restored. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    August 27, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. Sharon, Columbus OH

    Here's what I don't understand. Some of these people running for President are currently in the Senate. What stops them from suggesting some of these initiatives to help New Orleans while they are (or should be) working in the Senate? Why are these people always talking about what they will do if they become President? Why don't they talk AT ALL about what they will do or at least suggest right now.

    August 27, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  5. John Chamberlain Stugis, SD

    Promising to rebuild New Orleans is a very large promise. A president can't force industry to return with new investment dollars. There's simply to much for industry to lose, and the insurance providers would be nuts to write large policies without redesigned infrastructure. Rebuilding must come from the public sector, not federal tax payer dollars. It seems that making the local pro football team comfortable over rides the community needs, our (US) priorities are floating in the land of oz.
    Don't make unreasonable promises to a region that industry is unwilling to invest until the state is serious about fixing, and designing a new city (infra)structure.

    August 27, 2007 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  6. M SHIN


    August 27, 2007 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  7. James, Phoenix AZ

    It's the perfect storm!

    Presidential candidates pandering to those believing it's the Federal Government's job to fix everything.

    August 27, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. Lance, Monrovia, CA.

    Obama spoke very eloquently about the issue. It is outrageous that two years later there has been no progress in New Orleans.

    As Obama said, "As President I will go to bed and wake up every day thinking of what has happened to New Orleans."

    It is a wise thing to keep in mind with any President. Something our current President doesn't seem to understand.

    Government must be for and by the people, not for and by your political cronies. By both neglect and intention the people of New Orleans have been left to scatter on the wind, eliminating a bastion of the Democratic Party in the South, much to the glee of The Bush Administration.

    It is not a partisan issue, however. It is a humanitarian issue, and any future president, as Obama said, must never forget what has happened there... the corruption, the neglect, the complete incompetence.

    No one should forget New Orleans, because the next city it happens too, could be your own.

    August 27, 2007 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. David, Salinas, CA

    There plenty of blame to go around to all levels of government when it comes to the disgraceful mismanagement of the Katrina relief effort. But when it comes to the federal response, four names stand out as particularly negligent: Michael Brown, Michael Chertoff, Karl Rove and President George W. Bush.

    There was plenty of warning, both that a Category 5 storm was on the way, and that a disaster of the sort that actually happened was likely. An internal FEMA memo listed flooding of New Orleans as on of the three most likely U.S. disasters. This report was ignored by FEMA head Michael Brown, a Bush crony whose previous experience was as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. Brown wasn’t up to the job and seemed to know it. On the morning of the hurricane he wrote to FEMA deputy director Cindy Taylor, “Can I quit now? Can I come home?"

    As the disaster unfolded, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appeared unaware of information available to every American with a television. When reporters asked Chertoff about the people trapped in the Convention Center without food, water and sanitation, Chertoff called these reports “anecdotal versions” and “rumors”.

    Two days after the storm hit a FEMA employee in New Orleans wrote to Brown describing a citizens near death and saying, "the situation is past critical" and begging for food and water for victims in the Superdome. Michael Brown responded by email: "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?"

    Meanwhile, President Bush waited two days after the hurricane to cut short his vacation.

    With widespread looting and violence in the streets of New Orleans, Michael Chertoff told National Public Radio "there is a more than adequate law enforcement presence in New Orleans."

    Michael Browns emails from this period include complaints about his "problems finding a dog-sitter," and responses to comments about his wardrobe, "I got it at Nordstroms. ... Are you proud of me?"

    In a highly publicized event, President Bush told Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

    Behind the scenes, President Bush put another man with no experience in charge of the Katrina response: political director Karl Rove. Rove advised Bush to fly out of town, then used the disaster to promote his policies of segregating schools, reducing pay for construction workers, and limiting health care services.

    Millions of dollars in no-bid contracts were awarded to Republican political allies.

    Millions more were spent on hotel rooms for refugees, including one for $438 a day in New York City, and a $375 a night beachfront condo in Florida.

    FEMA claims to have spent $1.7 billion on 114, 341 trailers, but lost track of many of these. Others sit unused or contaminated with formaldehyde.

    FEMA also bought far too many temporary homes (24,967 manufactured homes for $857.8 million and 1,295 modular homes at $40 million). Many of these are currently unused and sinking in mud in Hope, Arkansas.

    An independent GAO audit showed that up to 900,000 of the 2.5 million people who received emergency cash payments were using false names and/or false or duplicate Social Security numbers.

    Hurricane Katrina was responsible for more than 1800 deaths. Two years later, much of New Orleans remains in a state of total destruction.

    No one in the Bush administration accepted responsibility for failures in the Katrina response
    Brown resigned 10 days after Bush’s infamous praise, but continued to draw his $148,000 salary

    You can read his emails during the response from this online pdf file:

    August 27, 2007 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  10. Andrew, Jakarta, Indonesia

    No, needs to be Obama/Clinton. That's his best option for staying alive.

    August 27, 2007 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  11. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Obama wants to respond to hypotheticals and meet with foreign leaders.

    Strike one!

    Obama wants to send nuclear weapons into Pakistan.

    Strike two!

    Obama wants to stand in New Orleans to claim he better understands the plight of african americans 2 years after the event.

    Strike threeeeee!

    Sorry Obama, you're all out of ideas. Why don't you leave the leadership to those more qualified like Hillary.

    August 27, 2007 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  12. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    It seems "Jesus" is a foreign policy issue for Obama. He can't even quote the bible correctly.

    Do we really want an islamic fundamentalist for president in this country?

    August 27, 2007 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    vvv you are so right. I think Edwards/Obama is the ideal

    August 27, 2007 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  14. John, louisiana

    Yeah, that would save it....

    August 28, 2007 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  15. Alex Luthor, Madison, WI

    A Biden/Obama ticket with Edwards as Attorney General would be an even better ticket.

    August 28, 2007 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  16. Uncle Rico, Miami FL

    You're naive, Carolina Dude.

    August 28, 2007 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  17. lavelle

    ^^^I tottaly agree no more bush chenney light politions. Did you see hills comment on how another terror attack would help the republicans. When I seen it come from her mouth i was like wait a minute if thats not "Bush Cheney" right there then i dont know what it is.

    August 28, 2007 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  18. James, Phoenix AZ

    "Hurricane Katrina was responsible for more than 1800 deaths. Two years later, much of New Orleans remains in a state of total destruction.

    No one in the Bush administration accepted responsibility for failures in the Katrina response"


    You cite all the warning FEMA and the President had about the pending disaster. Did the citizens of New Orleans have this same warning? Did the Mayor, Chief of Police, Governor all have this same warning? Has anyone in local or state levels "taken responsibility" for the Katrina failure?

    When people bought homes in New Orleans (a coastal town BELOW sea level) did they THINK to buy flood insurance?

    When a class-5 hurricane approaches – should you pack up and head out of town or wait it out because "the government will save me"?

    By the way – September 13, 2005 President Bush, “To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right," he said, "I take full responsibility."

    August 28, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  19. Steve, Tempe, Arizona

    The posts here don't really address one of the main problems of what happened in New Orleans.

    My brother went to New Orleans immediately afterwards as part of an Air Force contingent to work on massive water purification equipment. He said that the main problem was that the heads of the various relief groups were so determined to be the first in, the first to help, and the first to take credit, that they actually blocked each other's efforts to get in there and get the work done when it needed to.

    That, plus the other things that have been mentioned above, I believe, were the real problems.

    August 28, 2007 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  20. David, Salinas, CA


    I apologize for not noting President Bush’s apology on Katrina. You’re right, he was responsible. I only wish he’s take the responsibility to fix the problem now, rather than just apologizing for not fixing it earlier.

    I stated that all levels of government share the blame in the first sentence of my comment.

    And the fact that poor people didn’t have flood insurance is no excuse for leaving children stranded on rooftops or throwing billions of dollars in tax-payer money away on poisoned trailers, scam artists and luxury hotel rooms.

    The dismal Katrina response was evidence to all the world that the Bush Administration is totally incompetent. I don’t know how or why you can’t see it.

    August 28, 2007 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  21. Bernard, Scotch Plains NJ

    Obama/Edwards ticket is unstoppable!

    August 29, 2007 03:03 am at 3:03 am |