You have the ball. Time is running out. You can win the game. All eyes are on you.
You take a shot. It doesn’t go in. Your team loses.
It doesn’t matter if you are the best player on the team or the worst. You had an opportunity to make the shot and win the game. But you missed. You choked.
The President had the ball last night. Time had been running out for a while. All eyes in the Gulf Coast were on him.
He choked. Not only did he choke, but he didn’t even take a shot.
In the State of the Union Address, the President chose to not address that part of the Union in crisis. He chose to not address the state of the Gulf Coast.
He said, “Tonight the state of our Union is strong -- and together we will make it stronger.” And there was applause.
He said the state of our Union was strong, when a major city in the Union has entire neighborhoods unfit for living, where the residents are still only allowed to “look and leave” five months after Katrina hit and the levees failed. Power is not restored to the entire city. Gas is not restored to the entire city. Healthcare in the city is crippled. Half of the residents haven’t returned or can’t return. Almost 3000 trailers are acting as homes for residents who have returned and 17,000 more have been requested. Some streets are still blocked by houses knocked off their foundations.
And that’s just New Orleans, not including St. Bernard, St. Tammany, and Plaquemines Parish, and the rest of the Gulf Coast hit by Katrina and Rita.
Yesterday, more than during any of his other SotU addresses, an entire region was watching to see what the President would say about its future. This is what he said:
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency -- and stays at it until they're back on their feet. So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We're removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived.The first sentence is obvious. A “hopeful society” – any decent society – *should* do those things. And the second sentence – well, I have my problems with the $85 billion number. If it is legit, it is still not enough for the region. The next two sentences describe things the federal government is doing, but many in this part of the world would say it is not doing well or fast enough.
In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child, and job skills that bring upward mobility, and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity. (Applause.)
The rest is dedicated to scolding us for our pre-Katrina inadequacies, for excluding our residents from the “promise of our country.” The President’s answer to our current hurricane-related troubles is not “temporary relief.” Rather, he would like to solve all of our social ills instead of the immediate problems caused by a natural disaster and poorly built levees.
But nothing about our future. He didn’t say “never again.” He didn’t even repeat his pledge to do what it takes. He is our leader, but he lead us no where. He didn’t even point to the way out.
By telling the Gulf Coast residents what a “hopeful society” does, he is telling us what the federal government won’t do. This administration feels it has done enough and it is time for the “hopeful society” to take over.
In his 53-minute speech, Iraq was mentioned 15 times. New Orleans, twice. The Gulf Coast, once.
I’m glad everyone else is living in such a strong Union. We in this part of the world are jealous.