From Barack Obama to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton and all the politicians in between, they came and they saw, not to mourn, but to gloat over the neoliberal rebirth of a city. The only thing worse than their initial response is their current response. They are actually still congratulating themselves on a heckuva job well done. They actually used the word "celebration" more times than anyone has been able to count.
I guess they are saving their phony solemnity and their crocodile tears for the upcoming great exceptional American holiday of 9/11.
Barack Obama raved about American strength and Cajun cuisine, even jovially broke out into the theme song from The Jeffersons ("movin' on up to the east side -- to a deluxe apartment in the sky") as he toured a partially rehabbed neighborhood.
Far from being shamed and shunned, George W. Bush was greeted with open arms and plaudits by Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu and DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile before he scurried to a photo-op with black children at one of the for-profit charter schools that replaced the entire city public school system. Protests against his jarring presence were few to nonexistent.
Smooth-talking Bill Clinton, surrounded by Nancy Pelosi, former Senator Mary Landrieu and other groveling Democrats, spoke at the Smoothie King sports arena in the downtown area. He fondly reminisced about his many visits over the years to the decadent French Quarter, which largely escaped damage. Without mentioning the 1,800 lives lost 10 years ago, he urged the audience to laugh, dance and have fun, because they've earned it.
None of the politicians mentioned that even as the military and Homeland Security began evacuating people or providing them with food and formaldehyde-laced FEMA trailers, they were rounding some of them up, imprisoning and torturing them in a makeshift prison (the "Greyhound Gulag") for the crime of existing in a flood-ravaged city. Blacks, Muslims, the mentally ill and all manner of suspects were accused of being terrorists or felons, caged without charge, even denied the usual phone call to loved ones. When they were eventually released, as much as months later, their confiscated money was missing, and they never got it, or their old lives, back.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has gratuitously used the occasion of the Katrina anniversary to shoot more Republican fish in a barrel, and to prop up Obama and Obamacare and the Democrats while he's at it:
There are many things we should remember about late August and early September 2005, and the political fallout shouldn't be near the top of the list. Still, the disaster in New Orleans did the Bush administration a great deal of damage — and conservatives have never stopped trying to take their revenge. Every time something has gone wrong on President Obama’s watch, critics have been quick to declare the event “Obama’s Katrina.” How many Katrinas has Mr. Obama had so far? By one count, 23.Beyond that, Krugman continued, Katrina served to highlight the huge gap between Bush's macho image and Bush's sick reality. And then Krugman proceeded to trounce Donald Trump and nearly all the occupants of the GOP clown car. (He obviously cannot let the anniversary of a human disaster go to waste when it can be so easily used to trash the other side of the Money Party.)
Never once did he mention how Katrina highlighted the huge gap between rich and poor, and between black people and white people. In my published comment (since "disappeared" by editors) I pointed out the reality that George Bush and his cabal of war criminals and cronies have never been held accountable for anything. Not the tax cuts to the rich, not the wealth and racial disparity that Katrina highlighted to a shocked nation, not the invasion of Iraq, not torture. I quoted Donna Brazile's glowing words to the media in my soon-to-be censored comment:
"Well, I'm one of those individuals that believes under President Bush's leadership, we got it right. It was slow. … The federal government had to figure out its role, and it took a while for the federal government to really figure out how to help us. And I think once the president made the decision that New Orleans would be rebuilt … the president made a commitment and I think he kept his word.”
The White House quickly confirmed that the rehabilitation of George W. Bush is now official and complete. The elite conventional wisdom is that Bush got a bum rap over Katrina. The poor guy's been reduced to painting his toes in his bathtub, fer cryin' out loud, so the rest of the cruel world is urged to forget that New Orleans once got turned into an epic toxic bathtub on his passive-aggressive watch.
Meanwhile the politicians swooped down upon the city like vultures to bipartisanly party like it was Mardi Gras in August.
Its centuries-old charity hospital has never re-opened. Instead, taxpayers footed the bill for a billion-dollar luxury medical center. Obama gushed during his visit that the city has been transformed into "a laboratory for innovation" and "a place as entrepreneurial as any place in the country."
As his former chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel once infamously said, "Never let a serious crisis go to waste." Use natural and man-made disasters to plunder the commons and privatize everything in sight and grow very, very rich at the expense of the pesky victims.
Incidentally, Paul Krugman is of course not the only pundit to either ignore the Katrina anniversary altogether, or to co-opt it for political, tribalistic purposes. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has an excellent piece critiquing not only the failure of government to respond to the disaster, but the continuing failure of the mass media to cover the poverty and racism that Katrina unmasked. They were initially shocked, shocked at what they saw. And not only have they forgotten, they are enabling the political class to keep covering up the fact that half of all Americans are only a paycheck or a Social Security stipend away from the streets.
Half of all American schoolchildren live below the poverty line, yet Donald Trump is sucking up all the attention and Obama is lauded for "renaming" Mount McKinley as an act of stupendous statesmanship.
The truth is that the political class would rather spend money on the endless "war on terror" abroad than even begin to acknowledge or rectify the economic and social terrorism being waged, with their complicity and approval, here at home. New Orleans is the living legacy of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Not only are our leaders punishing the dispossessed, they're cashing in on them. They never let a crisis go to waste, especially a crisis that they themselves had an iron fist in creating.
And they give each other their high-fives and their heckuva-jobs and promise us Nirvana if only we would vote for them, one more time.