Didn't someone get the word to Ray Nagin? Didn't His Honor know he was supposed to use his Mardi Gras appearance on the Today show to bemoan slow progress in the rebuilding of New Orleans and take some helpful shots at the Bush administration for its stinginess in allocating only $91 billion?
If Nagin wasn't playing by the Bush-bashing script, Katie Couric was there to fill the gaps and use the opportunity to plump for more government programs including an expansion of perhaps the worst idea ever in welfare - 'public housing.'
Katie opened her interview with this negative assessment: "Only 50% of the debris has been removed. Basic services are still not up and running in some areas. That may lead some people to ask: what is taking so long?"
Nagin calmly explained that this was the first time an American city was so badly devastated, that this was the largest natural disaster ever to happen in the U.S. and that "it will take us some time to get back." Katie, perhaps showing some frustration of her own with Nagin's lack of ire, prodded "Are you frustrated with the pace? You must be." [Was that an order, Katie?] Finally taking the cue, Nagin allowed that he was "always frustrated. I want it to move quicker."
Katie, plunged on "Why isn't it [moving faster]? The magnitude is unparalled but why haven't efforts been faster?"
Nagin wouldn't rise to the Bush-bashing bait: "You are dealing with three levels of government which slows things down. We are making progress. We are a little ahead of schedule." No-o-o-o!
Katie noted that Washington spent $87 billion on Katrina relief, and that "you praised the administration for the pledge of an additional $4.2 billion for Louisiana housing."
But of course $91.2 billion in government aid couldn't possibly be enough. Asked Katie: "How much more money will be necessary?" Nagin didn't cite a figure but stated that the $87 billion is "misleading" because it went into de-watering and debris clean-up and not into the "rebuild cycle."
Katie later played on racial divisions, citing some statistics suggesting an uneven impact of the storm: "I know half of the blacks and just one-in-five whites say they have lost everything. The President of the NAACP said 80% of those whose homes were destroyed were African-Americans. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to report problems with finding jobs."
That's when Katie put in her pitch for more Big Government: "Can you use this as an opportunity to improve job training and create more public housing and make more opportunities for the African-Americans of this city?"
Nagin: "I think this is a unique opportunity to address the severe poverty in this city."
Katie: "But what can you do about it?"
Nagin: "We have to have the programs in place."
Bingo! At last he got it.
Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY. The TV show he hosts, 'Right Angle', was recently named 'Best of the Best' among public-access shows in his area. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org