Rethink 1: Obama Doesn't Get Katrina?

The president got a couple facts wrong when he spoke in New Orleans about the catastrophe

It wasn't so much the brief duration of President Obama's trip to New Orleans that riled the Katrina-smarties -- the folks who've spent the past several years obsessing, healthily, about the destruction of an American city.  It was that, when he spoke there, he got his facts wrong. And he got his facts wrong to such an extent that he convinced folks like Harry Shearer that Obama has no idea what really happened during Katrina.

How could this possibly be?  Everyone knows that happened during Hurricane Katrina. It hit New Orleans, causing massive flooding, and the government's anemic response compounded the disaster.

Shearer quotes Obama:

"Katrina may have swept through this city, but it did not destroy this community, and that is because of you, the people of New Orleans. It has now been just over 4 years since that terrible storm struck your shores. And the days after it did, this nation and all the world were witness to the fact that the damage from Katrina was not caused just by a disaster of nature but also by a breakdown of government.  That the government wasn't adequately prepared and we didn't adequately respond.

Eh, not really. Katrina didn't sweep through Orleans Parish. It hit Mississippi with the east side of its eye, with its most devastating force. It wasn't really a disaster of nature -- the city's levees were supposed to be able to contain the effects of a direct category two hit, where Katrina's force as it passed near New Orleans didn't exceed that limit. Katrina was, at its core, a failure of the Core. The Army Corps of Engineers, who built those levees and certified them as safe.  "Hitting" New Orleans v. hitting Mississippi isn't a distinction without a difference. The truth seems to be that the hurricane devastated the region -- and the levees breached prematurely. The response was slow and inadequate, but the response was secondary, at least for New Orleans.

Writes Shearer:

"The government wasn't adequately prepared and we didn't adequately respond" echoes Obama's campaign rhetoric about the aftermath of the disaster; his other remarks display a glaring, and for such an intellectually voracious and insightful man, quite possibly knowing ignorance of how we got here.

Typically, having mis- or non-diagnosed the problem, he came with no solution, no pledge (aside from the vaporous "build stronger" without reference to build what, how, by whom) to take the steps only the federal government, under strong leadership from a committed chief executive, can take to prevent the disaster from recurring.