Saturday, August 19, 2006

Focus, Media

The local and national press ran with this story yesterday:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Friday blamed racism and government bureaucracy for hamstringing his city's ability to weather Hurricane Katrina and recover from the disaster that struck the Gulf Coast nearly a year ago.
They were looking to catch Nagin in another “Chocolate City” moment, pointing out these comments as the big news of the day:
Nagin said the hurricane "exposed the soft underbelly of America as it relates to dealing with race and class."

"And I, to this day, believe that if that would have happened in Orange County, California, if that would have happened in South Beach, Miami, it would have been a different response," Nagin said.
Beware, readers. Just because it is news to the press, that doesn’t mean it’s new. A simple Google search would reveal that August 18, 2006, wasn’t the first time he had said almost the exact same thing.

Here’s an example from the PBS series Frontline:
You made very strong statements about race, that race was a factor in all of this. You stand by that?

[Nagin:] … I basically said that if this was in Orange County [in Southern California] or South Beach in Miami that there would have been a different response. And there probably would have been. And it's a doggone shame. This was Americans that were being impacted, and we didn't get the same response that other Americans were getting.

Well, how do you know that they would have been able to get a better response in Orange County?

[Nagin:] I'm seeing it right now. Look what's happening in Florida right now. Anytime there's an earthquake in California, my God, we've got every resource available to man.

You think that's fair? We haven't had an event like Katrina in a long time. You believe that it was race.

[Nagin:] I don't know what other reason could be at play when we have the United States of America, and we have a state that has $18 billion in revenue per year, that there's not enough juice to get to the city of New Orleans when you have a Category 5 that hit, and you have flooding and have people dying.

[emphasis mine]
When did this interview take place?
This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on Oct. 26, 2005.
Almost ten months ago. Nothing new there. And the “soft underbelly” phrase has become an often used example of Nagin speak, as demonstrated by astute local bloggers. The real news is that the media is just getting around to noticing it.

We need a responsible media now more than ever. As Mark at Wet Bank Guide points out, this and other sidebars about race are a distraction from what really matters:
Don't let anyone forget. It's not about black or white, Lakeview versus NinthWard, rich and poor.

Its about the damned levees.
Focus, media. Focus on what matters. The citizens have your back, but you’ve got to do your part.


dangerblond said...

I hate to say it, but that is the most consistency I have seen in a politician in a while. He's saying the same thing both before and after the election. Personally, I think he is underestimating the role played by sheer incompetence, but I'm sure there was racism woven in there.

Missed you at the Geek Dinner tonight, hope to see you at Rising Tide.

bayoustjohndavid said...

You can repeat yourself without be consistent. He's gone back and forth between blaming the federal government and blaming the state. He doesn't change his position on the subject, but he does change the amount of emphasis he gives it, usually depending upon what quarter he's feeling heat from. I can't fault him for having to finesse a racial balancing act, but I do think you're giving him a little too much credit. I do agree that are far more important subjects.

Schroeder said...

How much different could be the message if he said something like this:

"Building vital infrastructure to protect Americans isn't a black or white issue. Both black and white New Orleans citizens drowned in when the levees failed in New Orleans. For the good of all of our citizens, we need to join together to build a stronger nation. Let us start with a Category 5 storm protection system and a coastal restoration process the rival of anything the world has seen."