EDITORIAL: Democrats: Romney responsible for Katrina II

Obama’s team is grasping for election-year straws

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Listening to liberal media reports on Hurricane Isaac, we already know two things: A major disaster is coming, and whatever happens is Mitt Romney’s fault.

This rapidly developing story line is the function of what CNN called the “eerie similarities” between Isaac and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Isaac is on a similar track and predicted to make landfall on or about Katrina’s seven-year anniversary. Granted, Isaac is expected to be a weak Category 1 hurricane, in contrast to Katrina, which was Category 5 and the second most intense storm to hit the United States on record. However, the tempest has caused Republicans to reschedule parts of their national convention and given press outlets a handy pretext for limiting their coverage of what remains. To the extent reports continue, the theme will be, “Mitt Romney parties while the Gulf Coast suffers.”

White House correspondent Chuck Todd kicked off the analogy on MSNBC, observing, “The shadow of Bush and Katrina does hang over this convention.” President Clinton’s Labor Secretary Robert Reich piped in on Twitter: “Isaac will remind us of Katrina, and Katrina will remind us of George W. Bush.” The Associated Press dubbed the storm a critical trial for Mr. Romney. “The next few days will test Romney’s ability,” AP’s Des Moines correspondent Thomas Beaumont wrote, “to both present himself to the American people as a plausible alternative to President Barack Obama, and to lead a party still smarting from the image hit it took in the aftermath of the 2005 Gulf Coast devastation.”

Playing up a sense of impending doom benefits Mr. Obama. When Isaac comes ashore and doesn’t repeat Katrina’s devastation, the White House can claim credit for staving off disaster. Mr. Obama can draw contrasts between himself and Mr. Bush, which is one of his major campaign themes. The White House may also contend that without Mr. Obama’s wise leadership, the results would have been much worse — which is his primary talking point discussing the economy.

The country has been down this road before. In 2008, Hurricane Gustav was blowing in just as the Republican convention was kicking off. “The political gods blow Hurricane Gustav to remind us about the shame of Katrina,” the Daily Kos intoned. Fortunately when Gustav hit in Louisiana, it was weaker than expected. The 2008 Obama campaign didn’t make it an issue, and Naomi Klein of The Nation groused, “Gustav should have been political rat poison for the Republicans, no matter how well it was managed.”

For this hurricane, White House political operatives are no doubt planning the optics down to the last detail. The Romney campaign should do the same. Republicans will have to tone down the celebratory atmosphere of their convention or face the likelihood of split-screen coverage on major networks showing balloons dropping in Tampa next to scenes of hurricane-ravaged homes and people huddling under blankets.

The Washington Times

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