Yes, Bush should have responded more quickly once he realized the extent of New Orleans’ failures. But he didn’t cause those failures.
Anyway, this is all history. New Orleanians who returned to rebuild their city after August 2005 didn’t do so only to see it succumb to bad government again.
Since Katrina, they’ve elected a new mayor, Mitch Landrieu (Sen. Mary Landrieu’s brother), who took office in 2010. Voters have also done a sweep of the City Council. And activist citizens have forced the region’s levee boards to reorganize to stamp out corruption.
The city’s even working on its police department, which saw six officers indicted in a post-Katrina murder case.
That’s a tough slog, though — and the city is far from declaring victory. Residents don’t want to come to terms with the fact that even good policing must include the stop-and-frisk procedures to curtail illegal-weapons possession — a technique that still riles more successful cities, including New York.
But New Orleans couldn’t have even started to work on these long-term problems after Katrina without the $14.5 billion that President Bush sent it to build new flood barriers. This gave regular folk the confidence they needed to rebuild their homes, their lives and their local government. They could feel comfortable that they wouldn’t lose everything to floodwaters again.
Now, Isaac — albeit not as strong a storm as Katrina — is testing that new protection. So far, it’s holding up, although heavy rain could persist for days.
Indeed, the resilient post-Katrina New Orleans offers national Republicans gathered in Tampa a powerful message. When government delivers on core public works and on public safety, the citizenry can do the rest of the work.