No politician wants to be "Katrina-ed," observed NBC reporter Jamie Gangel on this past Sunday's "Meet the Press." Such reluctance doesn't extend to politics as practiced by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sharpton told listeners of his radio show on Friday how he was chagrined that city officials in Washington, D.C., pulled the permits for a "March on Washington" to coincide with the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. (audio after page break)
Problem was, the dedication and march were planned for Aug. 27 -- the same day that Irene, the most serious threat from a hurricane to the capital since the mid-1980s, was expected to sweep past the city on its rampage up the East Coast.
Sharpton talked about this with author and radio host Andre Eggleston, who guest hosted for Sharpton on Friday while Sharpton phoned in (audio) --
SHARPTON: How you doing, Andre?
EGGLESTON: Rev, I'm doing fine and congratulations again on "PoliticsNation" (Sharpton's new cable show, the result of an affirmative action hiring by MSNBC). It's well deserved, long overdue too for you, Rev. You're doing fantastic.
... followed by Sharpton graceless in response ...
SHARPTON: Well, it will start Monday night, but I will be doing the show tonight from here live at six o'clock Eastern and five o'clock Central time on MSNBC. People can watch tonight and then the permanent show starts Monday night and then from then on at six o'clock. And it's going to be a good show. I'm going to make sure I keep it real.
We are in Washington a day before what had planned to be our march and I resisted all the way until they pulled the permits late last night. The National Mall will be closed tomorrow and on Sunday as a result of Hurricane Irene even though the hurricane will not reach Washington until after the march. Their concern is the winds and the sound equipment and all after what happened in Iowa and the concern is about buses and trains will be down and how people cannot get back to their homes. They can get into Washington. Question is, would they be able to get out?
I understand the governor of New Jersey is calling a state of emergency which would close that turnpike. We had about 300 buses alone coming from New York that use that turnpike. So we reluctantly will delay the march. We're going to have it but we'll delay it and probably do it late September around the date that they have the dedication. (of the MLK Memorial)
"... After what happened in Iowa" -- Indiana, actually. God is in the details, reverend.
"... Even though the hurricane will not reach Washington until after the march" -- yes, all of hours after the march. Not so funny thing about hurricanes - they're unpredicable. Bet the ranch that one will head out to sea and you might lose your ranch instead.
Is Sharpton aware that much of Washington was built on a swamp? Or that the site of the MLK Memorial, overlooking the Tidal Basin, is one of the areas in the capital most prone to flooding?
Not incidentally, it was the organizers who raised money and built the MLK Memorial who postponed its dedication, not city officials.
Washington is a city of northern charm and southern efficiency, JFK dryly noted, and one of the last places you'd want to be when potential disaster looms. Unless you're Al Sharpton and intent on milking whatever reflected glory you can from the legacy of a civil rights martyr.