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August 31, 2012

Isaac and GOP Convention

Roy Meachum

On the seventh anniversary of Katrina Wednesday, Hurricane Isaac had deprived the city where I grew up of electricity to 157,000 homes. New Orleans is in much better shape than it was before 2005 with an injection of about $14 billion in federal funds to fix damage done by Katrina and upgrade the system.


Some streets flooded, but not Baronne and Jackson Avenue where I last lived before going into the Army. In those days, tropical storms didn’t have names. On summer afternoons, I watched the rain progress up from Canal Street, block by block. Afterwards the sun dried the sidewalks bone-dry; here and there behind a leaf a wet drop could be spotted.


Before Katrina whomped my former hometown, Betsey and Camille had devastated Holy Cross College where I was a boarder, as I’ve written before. The last time I paid a call on New Orleans post-hurricane, the school was building classrooms on what had been the front campus. Several months later my 93-year-old mother died.


Isaac forced a foreshortened Republican Convention. Among the casualties, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who cancelled his speech Tuesday evening, the opening night that was postponed by the hurricane. Staying in Baton Rouge, the state’s capital, he still contributed to his fellow GOP members. The governor told the press:


“The Obama administration’s disaster declaration fell short of the federal help he requested. Jindal said he wanted a promise from the federal government to be reimbursed for storm preparation costs.


‘“We learned from past experiences, you just can’t wait, Jindal said.’”


Federal law provides for Washington to pay 75 percent. The Republican governor demanded the White House pick up the whole total costs, contrary to his party’s platform, worked out by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and approved by his running mate, Mitt Romney.


On the eve of the convention, The New York Times reported:

“Between 2010 and 2012, House Republicans forced a reduction of 43 percent from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that pay for disaster preparedness. That is $1.8 billion that will be available for evacuation equipment and supplies, communications gear that lets first responders speak to one another, and training exercises. (House Republicans tried to cut $354 million more in this year’s homeland security spending budget, but Democrats restored the money in a conference with the Senate.)”


Associated Press writer Peter Prengaman and The Huffington Post’s Alan Fram moved on the first full day: “Republican delegates emphatically approved a toughly worded party platform at the national convention Tuesday would ban all abortions and gay marriages, reshape Medicare into a voucher-like program and cut taxes to energize the economy and create jobs.”


And while former President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Chaney, were names not heard in Tampa, the GOP national military strategy "restores as a principal objective the deterrence using the full spectrum of our military capabilities," according to the platform.


There you have the world, according to modern Republicans, and no commentary.


As for me, in the days when I was at Holy Cross, I scrambled over the levee out back, and watched for hours the Mississippi River flowing along, remembering the lyrics from “Showboat’s Old Man River:”


“Ah gits weary

“An’ sick of tryin’

“Ah’m tired of livin’

“An’ skeered of dyin’,

“But ol’ man river,

“He jes’ keeps rolling along!”


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