A comically flawed comparison

A COMICALLY FLAWED COMPARISON…. For quite a while now, the president’s detractors have been anxious to label something, anything, “Obama’s Katrina.” Various media figures have used the phrase in covering everything from the H1N1 flu virus to the Fort Hood shootings to the earthquake in Haiti. All of them were labeled “Obama’s Katrina” at some point, but all were dealt with effectively by the administration.

And in the wake of the deadly explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig, and the ongoing oil-spill disaster, we’re hearing the phrase again. Even for our stunted discourse, this is absurd.

It was, to be sure, inevitable that the usual suspects would try to connect the oil disaster to the president somehow. But it’s already pretty silly — Limbaugh, Fox News, Drudge, and the Washington Times are all running with “Obama’s Katrina” nonsense, no doubt hoping it’ll be more effective than previous attempts to get the phrase to stick.

Today, even the New York Times alludes to the connection, while conceding that the comparison itself is baseless.

There’s a world of difference between the impact of an oil spill and a deadly hurricane. And the White House hopes it stays that way.

As President Obama stepped up his administration’s response to the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, ordering a moratorium on new offshore drilling leases and dispatching cabinet secretaries and cargo planes to the region, the White House is also trying to avert the kind of political damage inflicted on former President George W. Bush by his administration’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina.

I’m trying to think of the similarities here, and very few come to mind. Both the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Hurricane Katrina involve disasters in the Gulf of Mexico. Both put Louisiana in peril. There’s also … well, that’s about it for the similarities.

In 2005, Bush failed to take seriously warnings of an imminent natural disaster, and was slow to act after the devastation had begun. The storm killed more 1,500, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and destroyed much of an American coastline.

In 2010, BP was responsible for a disaster that wasn’t natural at all. The company didn’t warn government officials of an imminent threat; it did the opposite, assuring agencies that this was a manageable problem that BP was equipped to deal with.

Nevertheless, within one day of the explosion at the rig, the Obama administration had dispatched officials and the Coast Guard to the scene. When the problem became more acute, the president dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to the area to help oversee efforts with federal, state, and local officials. President Obama will himself visit the coast tomorrow.

Everything that can be expected of government officials is being done. Media Matters published a timeline of events, and if there’s evidence of the administration taking a misstep, it’s hiding well.