Not Katrina

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This is not the finest hour of the Obama administration. The spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is an environmental catastrophe, and the Obama administration’s initial willingness to trust BP’s word on the severity of the accident wasted precious time that could have been used for preparation. When all is said and done, the spill could end up worse than the Exxon Valdez spill, which is the worst in U.S. history. The repercussions for energy policy, the oil industry, and most important, the environment will be felt for years to come.


But while the Obama administration has not covered itself in glory, and while the environmental impact will be devastating, there is one thing that this certainly is not.


This is not another Hurricane Katrina.


This was Hurricane Katrina. An horrific, catastrophic disaster of Biblical proportions. It killed at least 1836 people, caused over $90 billion in damage. The damage and death toll was compounded by a Bush administration reaction that allowed ongoing human suffering to stretch out for days, without serious action to alleviate it.


The ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is awful, and it will cause billions of dollars in damage. But it has so far claimed 11 lives, all of them on the Deepwater Horizon. That is 11 too many, but it is less than one percent of those lost in Katrina.


No people have been evacuated from their cities because of this spill. Nobody has been forced to take shelter in a stadium as the spill spreads. No one is going without food or water because of this. Nobody has lost their home.


By all means, criticize the Obama administration for a lackluster initial reaction to the spill. They deserve it. But don’t trivialize the truly awful devastation wrought by Katrina by comparing the two events. The comparison is ludicrous, and offensive. Period.