By Kourosh Ziabari
The 2011 Hurricane Irene which has encompassed large parts of the United States and left some 40 people dead so far once again underlined the incapability of the U.S. administration in handling a national crisis and reminded the American citizens of the deadly mismanagement of former President George W. Bush in dealing with Hurricane Katrina of 2005, the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States.
In 2005, the lethal Hurricane Katrina affected several U.S. states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio and claimed 1,836 lives; however, Bush's failures with regards to preemptive and preparatory measures especially in Greater New Orleans prompted national and international criticism and was followed by fiery attacks of the U.S. media and public who were dissatisfied with Bush's controlling of the crisis.
George Bush had claimed that he hadn't received the weather report which predicted the emergence of Hurricane Katrina; however, a February 2006 confidential video footage released by Associated Press showed President Bush and his Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff being warned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Chief Michael Brown that a disaster would happen imminently and affect several U.S. states.
"In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage," the AP report said.
In 2009, a 379-page report released by the U.S. House of Representatives severely criticized the U.S. government for failing to manage the crisis and put the blame on certain U.S. politicians, especially the New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The report compared the inefficiency of the government in handling the hurricane crisis to the 9/11 attacks and said that the people of the U.S. are disappointed with the way the Bush administration coped with Hurricane Katrina: "We are left scratching our heads at the range of inefficiency and ineffectiveness that characterized government behavior right before and after this storm. But passivity did the most damage. The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are."
Bob Woodward, a renowned American investigative journalist and a close friend of George W. Bush whom he had interviewed several times also admitted that Bush did not succeed in managing the predicament and helping the flood-stricken regions recover as soon as possible.
According to Washington Post, Woodward attributed some of the problems with the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina to the Bush administration's failure to understand and involve himself in details so he may make the right decisions.
Katrina's storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans, submerging eighty percent of the city. A June 2007 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers indicated that two-third of the flooding were caused by the multiple failures of the city's floodwalls. This was another failure for Bush's administration and a disgrace in his record.
Bush was also criticized for his New Orleans evacuation policy. New Orleans was one of the poorest metropolitan areas in the United States with the eight-lowest median income per each person. Bush's failed role in taking care of New Orleans' disastrous situation prior to the hurricane was widely criticized by the mass media in the U.S. According to a 2000 U.S. Census Bureau report, 27% of New Orleans households equivalent to approximately 120,000 people, were without private mobility. The homeless, low-income and sick people in the city were unable to leave the city, even after the August 28 mandatory evacuation was called by the government.
Now, the Hurricane Irene has thumped the United States East Coast once again and according to an Associated Press report, the windstorm and flood damages could be as high as $7 billion.
The Hurricane Irene has struck a chord with the American citizens and the bitter memory of Hurricane Katrina and government's mismanagement is being repeated for them.
The U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said that "this is a typical example of the failed Obama experiment. New York is evacuating for the first time in its history, under Obama’s failed leadership."
Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor slammed the president, "First he brings the country to the brink of default, then he shows no presidential ability whatsoever in dealing with the Standard & Poor downgrade, and now he intends to just let New York be taken by storm. I have only three words: Worst President Ever."
Overall, the United States is facing a new crisis while its taxpayers are witnessing their money being expended for the government's war adventures in the Middle East while it fails to protect its own citizens within its own boundaries. Now, it's not that much difficult to conclude that Barack Obama is nothing but a tidy and shipshape replicate of George W. Bush.
In a TV program hosted by Mediate.com, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and columnist George Will blasted Obama and his management of the Irene crisis, saying that one of Obama's biggest problems was the idea of portraying himself as a sort of larger-than-life problem solver, creating a "cult of the presidency" where the executive branch wields more power than it actually does. He also thought Obama should not be blaming other people and organizations for problems of governance that ultimately boil down to the separation of powers.
Anyway, Irene has so far devastated a great deal of infrastructure in New York and other U.S. cities. The performance of President Obama so far has been disappointing and poor. We should wait for the upcoming days to see what will happen in the crisis-hit country.