Aug. 29, 2005 will forever be remembered as the day that Hurricane Katrina unleashed its wrath on the Gulf Coast. With more than 1,800 people killed and $81 billion in property damage, Katrina is the most catastrophic natural disaster in recent memory. And as the years have passed, Katrina’s moniker has been ascribed to other natural calamities. The BP oil spill of 2010 was called President Obama’s Katrina, while the Pakistani floods became President Asif Ali Zardari’s. Now, on the fifth anniversary of Katrina’s devastation, prominent media figures seem to be asking the same question: will history label Hurricane Katrina as President Bush’s Katrina?
Most media pundits, at least, seem to think so. CNN, MSNBC and CBS News have all compared Katrina to Hurricane Katrina in some fashion, either when discussing emergency response time, the resultant rise in crime or political fallout. Even Fox News, the conservative media bastion that often provided the sole voice in Bush’s defense, noted that Katrina would most likely be remembered as President Bush’s Katrina.
Franklin Thomas, senior professor of presidential history at Georgetown University, agrees with the speculation.
“I can’t think of a Bush-era disaster that better matches Hurricane Katrina’s levels of destruction and incompetence better than Hurricane Katrina,” he said earlier this week. “Normally I’m skeptical when the media tries to make such grand associations between historical events, because often it is reported very differently in the historical record. But I feel very comfortable assigning such an imposing label to Katrina, and I think that passing time will prove me correct.”
But despite what seems like broad bipartisan agreement, President George W. Bush disputes the label.
“I don’t know that Katrina should be remembered as my Katrina,” he remarked in a recent interview from his Texas ranch. “I mean, if you look at it logically, there are other events that are much more deserving of the title. Like the time that Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at me. Watching the Secret Service’s response to that guy’s aggression was just disgusting. They should have anticipated his actions and taken steps to stop him beforehand. The time it took them to evacuate me after he started throwing was shameful. Didn’t I manage to finish my whole speech before they got me out of there and into an airlift? I would call that day my Katrina. Definitely. Because that one wasn’t my fault, either.”
Leaning forward, the former president looked around and lowered his voice.
“Now,” he said, “let’s jump ship and go get some goodies. Laura says I’m not allowed to have cookies before dinner.”