Apartheid, Bush style

The Republican rape of New Orleans. Plus, Rumsfeld and Romney
By EDITORIAL  |  April 19, 2006

BROTHERS UNDER THE SKIN: New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, who supported Bush in 2000, is a Democrat in name only.More pitiable than being a Democrat in President George W. Bush’s America is to be an African-American Democrat. And even more pitiable than that is to be a poor African-American Democrat. But perhaps the most pitiful political state of all is to be a poor, African-American Democrat from New Orleans.

“Ethnic cleansing by inaction.” That’s how Democratic congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts characterizes the Hurricane Katrina recovery plan for New Orleans endorsed by Bush. The plan offers too little money, too late in coming, making a mockery of his vigorous promises to rebuild the city. There is not sufficient funding to rebuild the still-inadequate levees that last year failed to protect the city. And this year’s hurricane season is just weeks away. Fifteen of the city’s 22 hospitals are still closed, including those that care for the most needy. About 20 of the city’s 117 schools are functioning. And toxic waste still laces the landscape.

New Orleans is about to have its first municipal election since Katrina. And it will be a neat trick. Fewer than half of the city’s 460,000 residents have returned. The vast majority of those who are still refugees are African-American. But Bush’s Department of Justice sees no reason why the election should be delayed. After all, if Iraqi and Afghan refugees can vote in makeshift polling places, why can’t the citizens of New Orleans? Let anyone who says Bush doesn’t think of New Orleans in Third World terms digest that reality.

The more important reality is that even before Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, although nominally Democratic, was little more than a Republican colony. To the nation at large, the African-American mayor Ray Nagin may appear to be the personification of his city. But he is in fact a figurehead, a puppet. Nagin is a Democrat in little more than name. He supported Bush in 2000 and is the political creation — or at least creature of — Joseph Canizaro, a real-estate developer with close ties to the Bush White House.

It’s true that corruption is something of a spectator sport in Louisiana and New Orleans. But whether New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina was any more corrupt than the Washington of the self-confessed criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his close ally, the indicted former Republican House leader Tom DeLay, remains for historians decide. In the meantime, Bush sits in the White House very much in charge and very much at large.

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