Living in the Wilderness

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For KCRW, this is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.

President Bush is flying into New Orleans today for another series of photo ops to mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which almost washed away one of America's greatest, most unique cities.

Tomorrow, Bush plans to inspect the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf coast, and he'll try to persuade us of how much his administration has done for the area in the wake of the storm.

The White House says the federal government has provided more than $114 billion in aid, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.

But "hard times and resentment linger two years after Hurricane Katrina's massive strike," the story said.

"The monster hurricane was the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history. It swamped a beloved city, killed 1,800 people across the Gulf Coast, destroyed or severely damaged more than 200,000 homes and made more than 800,000 people homeless overnight," the AP said.

"In New Orleans today, despite progress, signs of a shattered city abound. Neighborhoods are in ruins. Crime, inadequate health care and faulty infrastructure are pervasive. The Bush administration is still dogged by charges of an inadequate response: First, for the way it handled the crisis, and more recently, for not spending more time on it."

"Bush's trip will be his fifteenth stop in the region since the hurricane, but only his second since he visited during the one-year anniversary last August," the AP said. "The Gulf Coast's plight did not even get a mention in his State of the Union address this year."

Today on The Caucus blog on The New York Times web site, Michael Falcone writes that several presidential candidates are also traveling to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to "focus on the unfinished business of recovery and restoration."

Tonight, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who announced his presidential bid in New Orleans, will appear there at a "Hope and Recovery" summit. Republican candidates Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter will also visit New Orleans this week.

In Sunday's New York Times, Jeff Zeleny wrote that Democrats have cast Katrina as one of the Bush administration's greatest domestic failures.

"For Democrats and Republicans alike, a plan for New Orleans is a new element of the 2008 campaign," Zeleny wrote. Barack Obama, for instance, plans to restructure the manner in which the federal government responds to future catastrophes.

The Gulf Coast restoration, Obama said, has been weighed down by red tape that has kept billions of dollars from reaching Louisiana communities.

On Sunday Obama said, "Let New Orleans become the example of what America can do when we come together, not a symbol for what we couldn't do."

Today, the web site of The Campaign for America's Future said that, two years ago, Bush promised he would "do what it takes" to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, and gave a toll-free number that displaced families could call.

"Today, that number is disconnected," the site said, "just like all of the other promises President Bush made days after the storm."

In Sunday's New Orleans Times-Picayune, Richard Rainey wrote about Elise Hamilton and her husband, Julian, who live in a miserable FEMA trailer in the devastated Ninth Ward.

"The Hamiltons' daily struggle to balance their budget is a shared experience throughout the region two years after the most expensive hurricane in United States history," Rainey wrote. "Wedged between the cost of rebuilding houses or rising rents and the cost of resuming interrupted lives, many families find themselves wincing at the price of just getting by."

" 'Day-to-day living? Ha, ha,' " Elise Hamilton said, with a wry smile. "It's like living in the wilderness."

This is Nick Madigan, speaking to you this week from KCRW in Santa Monica, with Minding the Media.

President Bush shares a moment with Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase's Restaurant (C), and fellow dinner guests Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University of Louisiana (L), and Reverend Fred Luter (R), right, during a dinner with Louisiana cultural and community leaders Tuesday evening in New Orleans. President Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush are visiting the Gulf Coast region on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
White House photo by Shealah Craighead



Nick Madigan