Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain To Katrina Victims In 2005: You're On Your Own

It doesn’t really come as a surprise to those of us who have watched John McCain over the years that he's about to make a campaign stop in New Orleans after Hurricane Gustav hits this week. After all, he's been exploiting the troops for years, what's a few hurricane victims after that?

What does seem odd is that McCain thinks Gulf Coast residents will forget how he, George W. Bush and the then-Republican Congress turned their backs on them so many times in the months after Katrina thundered ashore in 2005.

Sure, McCain was big on rote sympathy right after the disaster, saying on September 1, 2005 "American citizens have proven time and again how generous and selfless a people we are, and now we have an opportunity to come to the aid of those in need." A week later he stridently said "Our work to help the victims of this national tragedy has just begun, and Congress must do all that is necessary to fund essential relief and recovery efforts and help those in need."

It must be nice to have staffers writing that stuff for you.

Too bad he spent the months to follow leading the Republican charge against every Senate bill that would have actually helped Katrina victims or mandated investigations on how the Bush administration could have blown disaster response so thoroughly.

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden jumped immediately to the aid of hurricane victims in the week after the 2005 disaster, authoring S.Amdt. 1661 "…to provide emergency funding for victims of Hurricane Katrina."

Biden's legislation would have provided many things including money to purchase
interoperable communications equipment to help first-responders dealing with the disaster, $10 million "to find, unite, and transport children impacted by Hurricane Katrina to their parents, legal guardian, or next of kin" and funding to assist victims of domestic violence in affected areas.

"The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has revealed the best and the worst about our great Nation. It has revealed a great economic divide that exists among our citizens, while it demonstrated as well the capacity of the majority of our citizens to be compassionate and even heroic during times of great need," said Biden in arguing for his bill. "It also exposed the demons of some who will use any opportunity to prey on the weak."

"The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that over 1,000 children have been displaced by this storm -- that means they are not with their parents or guardians -- and in this amendment we provide $10 million for that effort," Biden continued. "We also provide $9 million to support domestic violence victims impacted by the storms. We all heard of the reports of sexual assaults in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and we will support those victims who have not been moved to new shelters."

But with John McCain's help, the Republican-led Senate shot down the funding on a 41-56 vote with McCain voting against, while Biden and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama voted for the funding.

When Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) proposed the creation of a Congressional Commission to "examine the Federal, State, and local response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.. and make immediate corrective measures to improve such responses in the future," John McCain was once again exactly where George W. Bush wanted him to be: On the "nay" side of a straight party-line vote (44-54) that killed that legislation.

And lest you think it was McCain taking a stand against what might become a Democratic witch hunt on the failures of his bosses in the White House, the bill called for a wholly bipartisan panel, stating specifically of the 10-member group that "not more than 5 members of the Commission shall be from the same political party."

Unlike McCain, Barack Obama was one of the cosponsors of that bill and both he and Biden voted for immediate oversight on the bungled Katrina response.

But that's not all.

As the Democratic minority tried throughout the fall of 2005 to get help for people in Louisiana and Mississippi, the Republicans wanted no part of it and despite his post-Katrina pledge to "do all that is necessary to fund essential relief and recovery efforts and help those in need," John McCain was right there to shoot down every initiative that would have helped, including the following Democratic-sponsored bills:

So when John McCain makes his grand exploitation trip to Louisiana later this week -- and especially if he follows that stunt by making his convention speech from there -- keep in mind that no matter what words of resolve or sympathy he throws at the latest hurricane victims, he voted down every chance he had to actually provide help and oversight the last time this happened.

The best McCain can hope voters assume is that he simply didn’t care. The worst -- and probably closer to the truth -- is that he was just doing what he was told.