The aftermath of Katrina in punditry

Categories: Overheard

A week after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, we've heard from politicians, pundits, survivors, aid workers, and editorialists. Here are just a few of the notable comments coming out of the tragedy...


"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."
-- Rep. Richard Baker (R-LA) to lobbyists


"The point is if you look at the big picture, it's a phenomenal accomplishment by everybody involved. It's unbelievable. I am constantly struck by where we are today just a little over a week from the worst catastrophe that this country has seen."
-- Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX)


"Because they don't see blacks as a current or potential constituency, Bush and his fellow Republicans do not respond out of the instinct of self-interest when dealing with their concerns. Helping low-income blacks is a matter of charity to them, not necessity. The condescension in their attitude intensifies when it comes to New Orleans, which is 67 percent black and largely irrelevant to GOP political ambitions. ... Considered in this light, the actions and inactions now being picked apart are readily explicable."


-- Slate's Jacob Weisberg



"He's said a lot of dumb-ass things lately."


-- An anonymous Department of Homeland Security official on FEMA Director Brown



"Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the
basis of race... The Lord is going to come on time -- if we just wait."


-- Condoleezza Rice touring Alabama last Sunday



"Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney. Go fuck yourself."


-- a protester shouting at Vice President Cheney in Mississippi live on MSNBC



"Must be a friend of John... er, ah - never mind."


-- Cheney's reply



"Unless the federal government adopts New Orleans as its ward and pays all its bills for the next 20 years -- an unlikely to absurd proposition -- the place won't be rebuilt."


-- Slate's Jack Shafer



"The bottom line is that despite the fact the president was strapped with two governors who bungled this crisis badly, in the end it is the president who sends in the National Guard and FEMA relief. The president's suggestion that the size of this storm caught all by surprise just doesn't get it. His administration was 48 hours late sending in the National Guard and poor Americans got raped and killed because of those mistakes."


-- Conservative pundit Joe Scarborough on MSNBC



"I gotta tell you something, we got five or six hundred letters before the show actually went on the air, and no one - no one - is saying the government is doing a good job in handling one of the most atrocious and embarrassing and far-reaching and calamatous things that has come along in this country in my lifetime. I'm 62. I remember the riots in Watts, I remember the earthquake in San Francisco, I remember a lot of things. I have never, ever, seen anything as bungled and as poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans. Where the hell is the water for these people? Why can't sandwiches be dropped to those people in the Superdome. What is going on? This is Thursday! This storm happened 5 days ago. This is a disgrace. And don't think the world isn't watching. This is the government that the taxpayers are paying for, and it's fallen right flat on its face as far as I can see, in the way it's handled this thing."


-- CNN's Jack Cafferty, on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina



"Now, for you people who are saying, 'Well, stop pointing fingers at the president...left-wing...the media's being too hard': No. SHUT...UP! No! This is inarguably -- inarguably -- a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government. Remember when Bill Clinton went out with Monica Lewinsky? That was inarguably a failure of judgment at the top. Democrats had to come out and risk losing credibility if they did not condemn Bill Clinton for his behavior. I believe Republicans are in the same position right now. And I will say this: Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. The only difference is that tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina."


-- Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show



"Television made it impossible for government officials to say the situation was under control; we could see that it wasn't. Television made it impossible for government officials to say they couldn't get into New Orleans to help; if Harry Connick Jr. could make it in, so could they. Indeed, NBC put Connick on TV so often, you might have thought he was the head of FEMA."


-- USA Today's Robert Bianco


"But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment."


-- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)



"This is the second basic American value this administration has violated. The other is humane treatment of enemy prisoners in wartime. Perhaps the reason people feel more than simple frustration with Bush - the reason it amounts to anger - is not "Bush-hatred" (although that irrationality exists), but this president's squandering of so much of what is best about America and his pandering to so much that is worst. I don't fully understand it. I don't think it's malevolence. I think it's a mixture of arrogance and incompetence."


-- Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan



"We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators, we've heard that they've gone around seizing equipment from our contractors. If they do so, they'd better be armed because I'll be damned if I'm going to let them deprive our citizens. I'm pissed off, and tired of this horseshit."


-- Slidell mayor Ben Morris



"But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas."


-- Lisa Rosetta, The Salt Lake Tribune, on FEMA's assignments for volunteer firefighters



"ATTN: SUPERDOME RESIDENTS: I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared."


-- National Review pundit Jonah Goldberg at NR's The Corner blog



"People are going into survivor mode. They are calling it looting and I'm saying it's surviving. What's a store with food in it if you don't have food? What's a store with fresh water if you don't have water? What are you supposed to do?"


-- St. Louis Rams running back and New Orleans resident Marshall Faulk



"This is mass chaos. To tell you the truth, I'd rather be in Iraq."


-- Sgt. Jason Defess, 27, a National Guard military policeman and Iraqi war veteran who had been stationed on a ramp outside the Superdome since Monday



"I am pleased with the federal government response. And by the way, while they're hurting, and I understand it, this is not a time for complaining."


-- Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), on CNN



"We got a lot of rebuilding to do... the good news is and it's hard for some to see it now but out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic gulf coast...out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- the guy lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. I look forward to sitting on the porch."


-- President George W. Bush, in Mississippi



"George Bush doesn't care about black people."


-- Singer Kanye West during NBC's A Concert for Hurricane Relief



"By censoring Grammy-winning rapper Kanye West's remarks critical of President Bush during its West Coast feed of the program Friday night, the network violated the most moving and essential moment in an otherwise sterile, self-serving corporate broadcast."


-- Los Angeles Times staff writer Robert Hilburn



"People are going into survivor mode. They are calling it looting and I'm saying it's surviving. What's a store with food in it if you don't have food? What's a store with fresh water if you don't have water? What are you supposed to do?"


-- St. Louis Rams running back and New Orleans resident Marshall Faulk



"On the fourth level, the darkest and highest of all, the lurkers lived, scary in the shadows. The fourth level, people explained, was for the gangsters and the druggies. The rumors sprang from there: Two girls had been raped; one girl had been raped and one killed. Someone was abducting newborns. A man had jumped from there and died. A murder had occurred."


-- Washington Post reporter Ann Gerhart, on conditions inside the Superdome



"All right. Hang in there."


-- President George W. Bush, to the Katrina survivors in Mississippi



"I wouldn't say I'm angry, you know. I think I'm tired of hearing the politicians say that, you know, they understand the frustration of people down here. To me, you know, it's not frustration. It's not that people are frustrated. It's that people are dying. I mean there are people dying. They're drowning to death and they drown in their living rooms and their bodies are rotting where they drowned and there are corpses in the street being eaten by rats and this is the United States of America."


-- CNN's Anderson Cooper



"New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now. God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."


-- Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans



"I'm not surprised at what the feds say, they're covering their butts. They're keeping the body counts down because they don't want to horrify the nation. It's worse than Iraq, worse than 9-11. They just don't want to know how many were murdered by bureaucracy."


-- Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard



"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is working very well for them."


-- Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on evacuees in the Houston Astrodome



"...As scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality."


-- CBS News anchorman Bob Schieffer



"The City of New Orleans and its residents owe the president a profound debt of gratitude."


-- Powerline blogger John Hinderaker



"You have people who don't heed those, those, uh, those warnings, and then put people at risk as a result of uh, not, uh heeding those warnings. So there may be a need to look at tougher penalties, candidly, on those who decide to ride it out and and and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."


-- Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), on WTAE-TV CH 4/Pittsburgh, wanting to fine New Orleans residents who didn't leave



"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame."


-- Excerpt from An Open Letter to the President in the Times-Picayune



"Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."


-- Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard on CBS's The Early Show



"We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai."


-- Hans Buder, one of three Duke University sophomores who managed to drive all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center last Saturday evening to assist victims of Hurrican Katrina



"A few piles of bottled water wouldn't have come amiss if there's going to be suddenly too much water but none of it drinkable. Elementary things like that. He didn't do that. Then he did a fly-by from his holiday retreat, and then he got there too late and then he said something completely idiotic. So I really can't see there is any forgiveness for that. And remember also, that he did interrupt his holiday not very long ago to pay attention to something that was none of his business at all as President. Namely, the alleged living condition of an actually dead woman named Terri Schiavo."


-- Conservative pundit Christopher Hitchens



"The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina offers an historic opportunity to revitalize the Gulf Coast."


-- Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)



"When are they gonna go home? There aren't any homes to go back to."


-- St. Bernard Parish President Junior Rodriguez, when asked by an anchorman when his residents would be able to go home



"I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."


-- Republican strategist Jack Burkman on MSNBC


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