Lessons learned? Here's hoping
Hurricane Gustav was powerful and exacted a terrible death toll -- more than 70 people, including at least seven in the United States -- but in New Orleans, at least, it wreaked nothing like the hellish watery havoc that Hurricane Katrina brought three years ago at this time. Forecasters say Gustav will dump a bunch of rain on northern Louisiana this week -- after Tropical Storm Fay, we here in Alabama can sympathize -- but by and large, the worst of the storm mercifully appears to have played out.
One heartening thing to see is that federal and state officials appeared a lot more prepared for this storm -- and more publicly vocal about their preparedness -- than they were for Katrina. For a case study, look no further than President Bush, who spent the early hours of the Katrina catastrophe playing guitar with a country singer and eating birthday cake with John McCain. This time, though, Bush called off an appearance at the Republican National Convention and headed to a command center in Texas -- close enough to the storm-affected area to act quickly, but not so close to the danger zone as to be in the way of relief efforts.
On the political side of things, Barack Obama and the RNC organizers both have responded in the correct (and electorally wise) way, staying out of the danger zone, temporarily tamping down the campaign, and urging supporters to donate to hurricane relief groups. It was refreshing to see upper-echelon politicos with vastly different viewpoints on so many of the key issues of the day agree that some things really aren't political.
And it'll be even more refreshing if McCain pops the trial balloon he floated in an NBC interview wherein he said he might deliver a speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination from somewhere along the freshly devastated Gulf Coast. Seriously, how tone-deaf can a person be?