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August 27th, 2010
01:07 PM ET

Like a hurricane

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Katrina still matters because momentous events are one of the clearest measures we have of whether or not our leaders know what the heck they are doing.

Katrina still matters because momentous events are one of the clearest measures we have of whether or not our leaders know what the heck they are doing.

All this weekend tales of Katrina will fill the air, as surely as that massive storm did five years ago; stories of homes and lives lost, communities and hopes regained. As a former resident of New Orleans, it all fascinates me. Like details of the oyster harvest and the starting lineup for the Saints.

But I also understand why others, like say folks from Maine or North Dakota, might say

“Why does this matter to me?”

Let’s put aside all those fuzzy notions of caring for your fellow human beings. Let’s even suppose that you don’t give a crawfish’s tail for music, great cooking, or any of the half dozen items within your reach right now that came through the Port of New Orleans.

Katrina still matters because momentous events are one of the clearest measures we have of whether or not our leaders know what the heck they are doing. Most of us can’t fathom the national debt. The economy is as clear as mud. International affairs? We don’t grasp that too easily either, unless they involve “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” But natural disasters, we get. And when a politician and his team screws up the response, we pretty much all know it. Honestly, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent did you really need a DC pundit to tell you that the photo of President Bush flying over the Katrina wreckage was a mistake?

Chicago got its first female mayor because the guy in office blew the cleanup from a big blizzard. Floods. Wildfires. Earthquakes. Unusually high humidity. When something in the natural world goes wrong, the way it is handled by our leaders highlights their strengths and weaknesses in bricks and mortar terms. At least a lot more than a hearing in the Appropriations Committee.

I don’t have electricity? You don’t get my vote. Roads impassable? Do not pass go. We’re out of clean water? You’re out of office.

The long term ability of our leaders to hang in there, keep dealing with the troublesome problems that linger after the TV cameras leave…well, in many ways that’s the real measure of leadership. That’s what disasters can show us, and that’s why Katrina still matters.


Filed under: Hurricane Katrina • Tom Foreman
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