One of the more deeply twisted–and, one would have hoped, now thoroughly discredited–right-wing storylines of the Bush era is currently enjoying a comeback: all that chaos and suffering after Hurricane Katrina, all those people stranded on rooftops, left to die in jail cells and swelter in the Superdome, that was big government’s fault! Writes the Washington Legal Foundation’s Daniel J. Popeo in the Washington Examiner, "From the Hurricane Katrina response, to ongoing dysfunction in providing adequate medical care to veterans, to keeping out illegal aliens, the federal government has done little to inspire public confidence."
The Katrina disaster, in this telling, had nothing to do with Bush’s decision to gut FEMA and hand the reins to the incompetent former International Arabian Horse official Michael Brown; instead the problem was that the citizens of New Orleans were foolish enough to expect the federal department of emergency management, to, well, manage an emergency.
Notoriously, Bill O’Reilly made just this point while the city was still under water: "If you rely on government for anything, anything, you’re going to be disappointed," he said, noting, moreover, that the lesson of Katrina that should be taught in school is, "If you don’t get educated, if you don’t develop a skill, and force yourself to work hard, you’re most likely be poor. And sooner or later, you’ll be standing on a symbolic rooftop waiting for help."
Since the desperate plight of post-Katrina New Orleans was the doing of big-government liberals, it naturally follows that, under Obama, we have more Katrinas in store. This breathtaking logic is on vivid display in a creepy email blast distributed by Townhall.com from Independent Living publisher Lee Bellinger (cited in Tapped): "Think about the widespread collapse of order and emergency services in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina–except on a national level. The implementation of gun-confiscation laws, looters and thugs terrorizing the elderly with impunity, besieged hospitals without power, doctors and medicine. People forcibly herded into ‘containment zones’ and denied access to food, water, and medical attention." Think about it, indeed.
(Recall that, before this, the last person to try to use Katrina’s legacy as a Republican talking point was Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal in his response to Obama’s state of the union address, in which he praised Sheriff Harry Lee for defying government bureaucrats who were allegedly preventing volunteers with boats from rescuing people on rooftops. The story turned out to be, at best, colorfully embellished.)
Conservatives are reaching desperately here into a tattered bag of tricks, claiming that the very government services that they have systematically starved are ineffective and thus unworthy of funding. At a moment when economically anxious Americans are looking favorably on government, this tack seems likely to be self-marginalizing. On the paranoid, shrinking Republican base, though, it’s sure to be a hit.