Obama’s Hurricane Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

Last week a 2007 video surfaced in which then-candidate Barack Obama regaled a mostly-black crowd at Hampton University in Virginia about what he called a failure of the federal government to waive state and local matching funds under the Stafford Act for Katrina relief.

Obama noted that the federal government had waived the Stafford Act match for Hurricane Andrew and 9/11 relief, but suggested that Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states had been neglected for such a waiver because the funds would be destined for too many black people for the federal government’s tastes.

“What’s happening down in New Orleans?” Obama thundered. “Where’s your dollar? Where’s your Stafford Act Money? Makes no sense! It tells me, the people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about as much!”

But Obama was lying, and he knew it. He knew it because less than two weeks before that speech, he himself had been one of only 14 senators opposing a bill which would have provided some $7 billion in Katrina relief with a full waiver of Stafford Act matching requirements.

The hypocrisy of that fact, once it was revealed by Fox News’ Eric Bolling, percolated in the conservative blogosphere as an addendum to the national conversation about Obama’s Hampton speech race-baiting, complete with a feigned Southern black accent.

But today, writing at the Daily Caller, Quin Hillyer exposes that not only was Obama lying about the federal response to Katrina, his actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac show a continued hypocrisy toward disaster relief on the Gulf Coast…

According to Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, the president has responded to the August landfall of Hurricane Isaac, which devastated several parishes in Louisiana, by requiring local governments to provide the maximum allowable 25 percent matching funds to receive their federal aid, instead of the 10 percent match that served as the Bush administration’s guideline in the aftermath of Katrina.

Plaquemines Parish, which was particularly hard hit by Isaac and whose residents had to evacuate to escape the effects of storm surge, is one area whose Stafford Act requirements Obama has declined to waive.

In contrast with the largely black areas of New Orleans that Obama addressed in his 2007 Hampton University speech, U.S. Census Bureau data show that Plaquemines’ population is 71 percent white.

Scalise added that Vice President Joe Biden had promised Louisiana that the federal government would forgive the $705 million in community disaster loans provided by the federal government after Katrina.

Instead, the administration devised rules for loan forgiveness that only the mostly black Orleans parish — not surrounding parishes, which are predominately white — could meet.

“Biden said ‘all your loans will be forgiven,’” Scalise told The Daily Caller. “But school systems and sheriffs’ offices still have multi-million-dollar loans that were promised to be forgiven, but weren’t.”

“President Obama hasn’t practiced what he preached when hurricanes struck Louisiana since he became president,” Scalise added.

State leaders, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, agreed that the administration has hypocritically shirked its responsibility.

“It’s offensive that Barack Obama would even try to score political points using Hurricane Katrina,” Jindal told TheDC through a spokesman.

“St. John the Baptist Parish was inundated by Isaac’s storm surge. President Obama visited the parish, held a press conference there and toured the devastation,” Jindal added. “Yet, he is still relying on this parish, and all other impacted parishes, to pick up 25 percent of the cost and refuses to make any adjustment allowed under the Stafford Act.”

Jindal also said state and local governments would struggle to pay back the debt on their own.

“A core responsibility of the federal government is to protect the lives and property of its citizens when threatened,” he added. “The president’s refusal to grant a cost-share adjustment ignores that responsibility.”

Can we channel Kanye West and say President Obama doesn’t care about white people?

It’s not a particular requirement that the Stafford Act be waived every time there’s a hurricane. But when you’ve staked yourself to a narrative that to not waive Stafford in the case of Louisiana is tantamount to racism, shouldn’t you attempt to be consistent as a friend to Louisiana? Particularly when you’ve already voted against appropriating money for hurricane relief to the state while using it as a poster child for your predecessor’s supposed neglect.

Jindal is currently being excoriated by the President’s supporters in Louisiana for taking to the campaign trail against Obama rather than “serving the best interests of Louisiana.” In light of Obama’s hypocrisy and dereliction toward the state can Jindal really be blamed for seeing his actions on the stump as one and the same with serving those interests?

UPDATE: Sen. David Vitter weighs in with a comment on Obama’s hypocrisy:

“Bush actually waived some of the match requirements for Katrina federal assistance. Obama is not considering any waivers whatsoever following Isaac. The hypocrisy is startling.”

Vitter also reminded us that on August 29 he had sent a letter to the President protesting the 75 percent Stafford funding for Isaac relief…

August 29, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

On August 27, 2012, I expressed my support for a full federal emergency declaration for the State of Louisiana. The day prior, Governor Bobby Jindal declared a statewide emergency and asked for a major disaster declaration for the state.  As you know, from the weather reports, Hurricane Isaac is continuing to dump massive amounts of rain and strong winds on southeast Louisiana. Given the ongoing damages, I would again support the state’s request and urge FEMA to authorize Category B emergency protective measures at a complete 100 percent instead of the current 75 percent ceiling you approved on Monday.

Louisiana’s coastal parishes and the metropolitan city of New Orleans are facing the brunt of this hurricane. Affected areas face mandatory evacuations, power outages, and flooding.

State and local governments need every tool and resource available to respond to this rapidly approaching hurricane.  Due to the serious nature of Hurricane Isaac and weather reports from around Louisiana, there is a clear and justified need for 100 percent federal funding for emergency protective measures for affected areas.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue, and I look forward to your response.


David Vitter
United States Senator

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