In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, causing the deaths of 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast and an estimated $135 billion in damages. The storm wrecked — some say devastated — New Orleans.
In the eyes of then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, President George Bush, not the hurricane, was the real villain. According to Nagin and many other prominent Democrats, Bush was responsible for the city being unprepared to deal with a damaging hurricane. He was guilty of not getting sufficient supplies to the city and not giving city officials enough help in dealing with the flooding, which covered 80 percent of New Orleans. Most everything that went wrong was the fault of Bush and his administration.
Nagin, in his 2002 campaign for mayor, promised to clean up city hall and said “corruption is no longer going to be tolerated.” He used the hurricane and his trashing of Bush as a way to polish his political image and shift the spotlight from his own shortcomings to Bush.
Now, nine years after Katrina, a federal jury has found Nagin guilty of bribery and conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and tax charges involving $500 million. He faces about 20 years in prison.
There was a lot of finger-pointing during and after the deadly hurricane, and, using hindsight, there surely are things the federal government, Louisiana state officials and Bush as president could have done differently to be of more help. However, it is clear Nagin and his fellow Democratic city officials in New Orleans failed in numerous pre-hurricane preparations and in their response during and after the storm. He was a crook and used the hurricane to build a false national image and to fatten his personal bank account.
Hopefully, lessons learned in the Katrina disaster will help school, city, state and national officials to prepare for future national disasters and to navigate such trouble and confused times with honesty in their personal and professional dealings.
Nine years after the recent Superstorm Sandy that hit the New Jersey shoreline, could there be a similar Katrina-like finding of fiscal and personal misconduct — this time with a Republican governor and a Democrat in the White House?