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July 09, 2014 9:25 AM Enough With the Katrina Analogies

By Ed Kilgore

It’s more obvious every day that a certain element of the conservative movement is focused on achieving revenge for the humiliation suffered by George W. Bush during his second term, and wants Barack Obama to be understood as walking the same downward path to ignominy. And so any time the president has a public relations setback or a policy problem, it’s his “Iraq” or “Katrina.” The latter has unsurprisingly become the preferred label for the sudden surge in border crossings at the Rio Grande attributable to events in Central America, and now for the president’s refusal to do photo ops at the border.

Before the practice gets too far out of hand, TNR’s Alec MacGillis offers a brisk refutation of the meme:

[T]here is the failure to consider even the most basic differences in context between the crisis in New Orleans and the Gulf coast in 2005 and what has been unfolding on the border. In the former instance, we were presented with an administration that willfully downplayed both the immediate threat of the approaching storm and the broader threat that, if the climatologists are to be believed, was represented by the storm.
In the latter instance, we are presented with an administration struggling to contain one particularly dramatic manifestation of a problem—a broken immigration policy—that the administration itself has been trying to fix, has indeed made its chief priority for the remainder of the president’s term, but has been stymied in comprehensively addressing by the identity crisis-driven obstructionism and indifference of the party that controls the House of Representatives. Other than that, yes, this is just like Hurricane Katrina. And the women and children lingering on the border, and the overwhelmed Border Patrol personnel trying their best to manage their presence, will be awaiting the magic word of whether the president’s caravan will be arriving on the horizon, which will surely solve everything.

I’d say there’s one more pretty big difference between Bush’s handling of Katrina and Obama’s handling of the “border crisis.” Bush was criticized by liberals for failing to take quick compassionate action to save lives threatened by flooding. Obama’s being criticized by conservatives for failing to immediately ship children back across the border in cattle cars; some seem to think they should simply be shot on sight. The ethical merits and demerits don’t quite match up.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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