BAYHAM: The Hurricane Expert From The Desert

President George W. Bush’s off-the-cuff praise for then-FEMA Director Michael Brown is no longer the most absurd comment made related to Hurricane Katrina, as that distinction now goes to an aged Democratic politician from a desert state.

Harry Reid, who officially hails from the Nevada town of Searchlight (over 250 miles east of the closest major body of water), stepped into some rhetorical doo-doo of his own making while engaging in what is becoming characteristic partisan demagoguery.

While taking shots at his Republican colleagues about a bill to provide aid for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, Reid thundered, “The people of New Orleans and that area, they were hurt but nothing in comparison to what happened to the people in New England.”

Nothing you say?

While Sandy inflicted considerable damage in the northeast, Hurricane Katrina literally destroyed a major American city. Over 80% of the eastbank of New Orleans was underwater and 100% of my home community of Saint Bernard was inundated.

That’s without factoring those who lived in “that area” (AKA the Republican-voting communities on the Mississippi gulf coast).

And unlike the northeast, when the water rolled into south Louisiana, it did not roll back out to sea. Katrina’s storm surge deposited incalculable sediment into homes and businesses across the New Orleans area and the very levees that locals depended on to keep water out ended up retaining the floodwater that turned practically every flooded house into a mold incubator.

There were parts of New York and New Jersey that went many weeks without power, which was a major hardship with the onset of colder weather. In south Louisiana, hundreds of thousands of people went without homes for years, having to make due in cramped trailers or in the guestrooms of relatives, friends or churches.

Katrina also created an immediate population Diaspora that social scientists will study for years. Seven years removed, there are plenty of uprooted locals who still know what it means to miss New Orleans.

Thus far the death count from Hurricane Sandy in the densely populated northeast is 85; Hurricane Katrina was responsible for 157 deaths just in the suburban parish of Saint Bernard. An estimated 1,833 people (over three times the population of Searchlight, Nevada) died in Hurricane Katrina.

That’s not including the people who died months later from “broken hearts” like my paternal grandfather who could not bear the anguish of seeing everything they worked their lives for wrecked.

Not all of Katrina’s casualties had water in their lungs.

The outrage by Louisiana’s Republican delegation in Washington isn’t about establishing who were the bigger victims or dismissing the severe damage the northeast suffered from Hurricane Sandy, but knocking some reality into a man who holds the reins of power in Congress’ upper chamber.

It should be noted that the state’s Democratic leaders and prominent officials have been deafeningly silent on Reid’s remarks.

In December 2002, incoming-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott showered a bit of extra praise for retiring South Carolina US Senator Strom Thurmond at the departing legislator’s 100th birthday party and a few weeks later was forced out of his leadership position in the senate.

Where’s the political consequence for a Democrat in a similar position who makes a far more outrageous and insensitive comment? Apparently there are none for those on the other side of the aisle.

Upon realizing that his comments would not be merely swept under the rug, Reid’s office issued a written statement conceding that he “misspoke”.

He’ll probably get through this without even having to apologize to all those folks Kanye West said President Bush didn’t care about.

If only Trent Lott had been so lucky.

Perhaps Reid cannot help himself.

Reid, not President Obama, is the mascot of your typical Beltway Democrat.

Reid, who resides in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel when in Washington, exudes a detachment from the reality one would expect of an individual who has spent the past thirty years of his life striding through the corridors of power and the arrogance of a politician who believes he can make reckless comments with impunity, as further attested by his slandering of Mitt Romney during the presidential election.

Whatever sounds good works, facts be disregarded/damned, though this time it seems Reid pushed the envelope too far, but not far enough for him to lose his position.

Louisiana’s junior senator, David Vitter, called the Democratic majority leader an idiot for his comments.

If not an idiot, then Reid is at a minimum guilty of lacking class and good judgment for letting his inclination to engage in partisan grandstanding marginalize the suffering endured by those whose lives were scarred forever on August 29, 2005.

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