The symmetry between Haiti's devastating earthquake and Hurricane Katrina is undeniable: the mass human suffering of an impoverished community, the shortage of vital resources, and the government response that was lacking--though for very different reasons--all point to the same understandings of civic responsibility that made Katrina a disaster for Bush and are motivating President Obama's forceful response to Haiti today.
In his first visit to New Orleans as president, Obama said Katrina's damage was caused, along with the hurricane, by a "failure of government"; today, he declared that Haiti's earthquake would demand "every element of our national capacity," pledging the full force of the U.S. government's capabilities to assist.
All that is mere observation, but one verifiable coincidence has arisen: Vice President Joe Biden will travel to South Florida on Saturday to meet with Hatian Americans and responders preparing to travel there; but first, he'll appear in New Orleans on Friday to announce Katrina and Rita recovery efforts, appear with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mayor Ray Nagin (D), and Gov. Bobby Jindal, and generally highlight the administration's commitment to rebuilding New Orleans roughly four and a half years after Katrina's devastation.
Here's the announcement from the White House press office:
Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden to Travel to Louisiana and South Florida
On Friday, the Vice President will Highlight New Recovery and Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans and Grand Lake, Louisiana; Dr. Biden to Visit Delgado Community College in New Orleans
On Saturday, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden will Travel to South Florida to Meet with Members of the Haitian-American Community and Responders who are Mobilizing Relief Efforts for Haiti
Washington, D.C. - Vice President Joe Biden will be in Louisiana on Friday to announce steps the Administration is taking to assist recovery and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Vice President will be joined by Senator Mary Landrieu at separate events in New Orleans and Cameron Parish in Grand Lake. In addition, Governor Bobby Jindal and Mayor Ray Nagin will make remarks at the event in New Orleans. During his visit, the Vice President will also highlight how Recovery Act investments are improving economic conditions and aiding communities in Louisiana...
On SATURDAY, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden will be in South Florida to meet with members of the Haitian-American community regarding our response to the crisis in Haiti. The Bidens will also be meeting with responders based in South Florida who are supporting and mobilizing relief efforts in Haiti. Further details and media logistics will be released tomorrow.
According to an administration official, the timing of the visits is coincidental.
"The Vice President's trip to New Orleans was previously scheduled. He made a commitment to visit the Gulf Coast shortly after the first of the year (see interview he gave to the Times Picayune for the Katrina anniversary) and this trip is keeping with that commitment," the official said when asked about the New Orleans event's proximity to the Haitian earthquake and the trip to South Florida.