CNN apparently wants to milk all it can out of the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s strike on the Gulf Coast for the benefit of the Democrats. On Monday’s "The Situation Room," CNN special correspondent Soledad O’Brien’s report juxtaposed a clip of a recent speech by Barack Obama with stock footage of the hurricane’s aftermath. On Tuesday’s "The Situation Room," O’Brien upped the ante in another segment. This time, more footage of damage from Hurricane Katrina ran at the same time an audio clip from President Bush’s first post-Katrina speech in New Orleans began. The video then cut to the President speaking in Jackson Square, and as the clip ended, the picture froze and went to black-and-white, as you might expect in an election campaign commercial.
O’Brien, on-location in New Orleans, appeared during the 5 pm hour of "The Situation Room." Host Wolf Blitzer asked her what people along the Gulf Coast were saying about the rebuilding effort. O’Brien’s reply: "You know, Wolf, if you had to pick on a single word, then I think that word would be they're very, very frustrated." She went on to say that people there also "feel let down by their local leaders, the state leaders, and the federal government, too." O’Brien mentioned the local and state leaders first, but they were not to be mentioned in her report. It focused entirely on the response of the Bush administration, and Democrats’ criticism. In addition to this "frustration" she cited, O’Brien would go on to talk about a conspiracy theory about why the federal aid to the region has been so slow.
The first part of Soledad O’Brien’s report:
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know -- there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans. And this great city will rise again.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): President Bush in New Orleans two weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
But in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 55 percent of Americans we questioned don't think the Crescent City will ever completely recover from the storm. While Washington's committed more than $110 billion in grants and loans to the region, the money has been slow in getting to the people who need it the most.
BUSH: We want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover. This is a huge storm.
There is a bit of the disconnect between the President saying New Orleans will "rise again" and asking whether the city will ever completely recover from Katrina in a poll question.
After the report concluded, O’Brien commented further on what she had gathered from people in the area on why they think the federal government aid has been slow, and she seemed to agree with the conspiracy theory that is apparently common among some of the residents along the Gulf Coast.
O'BRIEN: You know, one of the things we heard, Wolf, a lot, was the sense that there's this policy of benign neglect. In other words, maybe there's a sense that the help is slow in coming because America doesn't want people to really come back and repopulate the Gulf Coast, New Orleans specifically, in the way that it once was.
You hear that, whether you're talking about the Lower Ninth Ward or you're talking about the middle class communities in the Lake View District. All across, I've heard that so many times, not only over the last couple of weeks, but the last several months, as well. And I think people feel that maybe the government is not funding the money fast enough because they don't want people to really come back -- Wolf.
Earlier, during the actual report, O’Brien included the apparently obligatory sound bites from two of the Democrat frontrunners:
O'BRIEN: The White House says it's living up to its responsibility. But the government's response to Katrina damaged Mr. Bush politically, giving Democrats running for president plenty of ammunition.
JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you go to these parts of New Orleans, and the work is not getting done. The money is not getting to the ground.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: And I will pledge to you this -- if we don't get done what you deserve to have done by the time I'm president, then when I'm president, this will be one of my highest priorities.
O'BRIEN: More than half of those we questioned say Washington's rebuilding efforts are not enough.
The report concluded with sound bites from three residents of the heavily-damaged Ninth Ward of the city, all of whom reenforced the sense that the aid to the area has been slow.
Now that the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s hit on the Gulf Coast has arrived, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues on Wednesday’s "The Situation Room." It won’t be a surprise if it does.