I have to hand it to President Bush. I never thought he would be able to write a speech that took an event of a natural distaster and give it a personality, but that is exactly what he did with his speech on September 15, 2005. Within the first couple sentences he describes Hurricane Katrina as “a cruel and wasteful storm.” This sentiment is dangerous for two reasons.
First, it gives the storm a mind of its own. Hurricane Katrina is no longer the result of changing atmospheric pressures with altering intensities due to warm coastal waters. More so, it separates from every other hurricane that has existed, and will continue to exist, on an annual basis. This one, this “cruel and wasteful” Hurricane Katrina, was one with a personality hell-bent on destroying America’s Gulf Coast.
The second danger about this comment is that it deflects responsibility. It is true that you cannot stop natural disasters but this comment helps push certain “what-ifs” out of the peoples’ minds. What if the Administration had not cut funding to the levees? What if qualified staff was put in charge of FEMA? What if we heeded warning before the storm hit rather than four days after? What if we listened Homeland Security’s suggestions and implemented a contingency plan for high-magnitude storm hitting the Gulf Coast? For Christ’s sake, what if Chertoff actually turned on a TV and saw people at the Convention Center?
Yes, Bush said he takes responsibility to slow response, but that is not what his “cruel and wasteful” comment is meant to deter. It is the what-ifs the comment negates, as it doesn’t matter, this hurricane was more than your ordinary natural disaster… It was one with a destructive personality.
Perhaps there is a certain cruel irony that another Category 4 hurricane is in the Gulf Coast area as this is being written. If it should hit the coast, I’m sure the damage will be just as tremendous as its predecessor. Maybe then, it will remind the President of exactly where the title of “cruel and wasteful” should fall; not on natural disasters, but an Administration that can only seem to react after their own agendas prove cruel and wasteful.