Gustav and the GOP: Better safe than sorry

DKS Editors

Three years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana. Last weekend, Hurricane Gustav, the storm that was predicted to possibly ravage the city once again, weakened, missing New Orleans and damaging the coast far less than anticipated.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, already posed a stark contrast to President George W. Bush’s handling of the situation three years ago. McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, visited the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency on Saturday for a briefing on the storm’s progression. President George W. Bush was criticized for not visiting the Gulf Coast until five days after Katrina. This time around, though, the president seemed to be more in touch, receiving regular updates on the storm’s progression and the evacuation from state leaders and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Events at the Republican National Convention were scaled down Monday. John McCain changed convention plans drastically, stating, “We will act as Americans, not as Republicans.” We agree. The Republican Party sacrificed valuable time at the convention that could have been used to air its platform, and it made itself look prepared for the worst. This helps overcome perceptions of Bush’s negative performance during Katrina. The president did his party a favor by skipping the convention Monday. Voters did not need to be reminded of the horror in 2005. Bush was given a mere nine minutes to speak last night and did not have to leave the White House to do so.

During Katrina, New Orleans flooded and 30,000 people who could not evacuate crowded into the Superdome. This time, the city provided 700 buses to evacuate the city. The elderly and the sick were evacuated first. In total, 2 million people were evacuated from the coasts of Louisiana after a mandatory order over the weekend.

The storm weakened as it neared land and barely damaged an empty city. The recently restored levees did not break, and water sloshed harmlessly over the Industrial Canal floodwall. Seven deaths relating to the storm were reported, all from traffic accidents. The death toll for Katrina exceeded 1,600. If the evacuation had been properly handled, many of those deaths could have been avoided.

Although all the preparations were completely necessary, it’s ironic that this storm didn’t do nearly as much damage as expected. Why did it take a tragedy for the federal and state governments to learn how to manage a natural disaster? It’s easy to look at Gustav and wonder how a government that failed so drastically in the past managed to pull it together for a storm that didn’t really hit.

Hurricane Gustav may not have been the literal storm of the century, but this election may prove to be the metaphorical one.

The above editorial is the consensus of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].