Two Presidents, Two Disasters, Two Narratives

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans with Mother Nature’s fury in late August 2005, causing over 1800 fatalities and over $100 billion in property damage. Because a Republican president resided in the White House, the corporate media and Democrats took the opportunity to pounce on the disaster response.

From “Heck of a job Brownie” to President George W Bush’s famous flyover in Air Force One high above New Orleans, the cost of human suffering was far less important to the media than the opportunity to stick it to President Bush.

MSNBC screen grab

Not only did they not like him, many in the media and Washington DC establishment believed Bush and his election were illegitimate and interestingly no one has been criminally indicted for questioning the integrity of the 2000 presidential election.

Bush himself described the optics of his famous flyover in an interview with The Hill,

Former President George W. Bush said it was a “huge mistake” for him to have been photographed during a flyover trip over New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

Bush acknowledged the famous photograph showing him looking out the window of Air Force One at the damage in New Orleans made him seem detached from the disaster on the ground that was caused by the massive Hurricane. 

Bush said the photo, which became a symbol of his administration’s response to Katrina, made him look “detached and uncaring, no question about it.”

Vanity Fair described it as, “The flood that sank George W Bush.” US News called the flyover, The undoing of George W Bush.” A Face the Nation  crank said of the flyover, “Still an embarrassment for Bush 43.”

Far fewer stories recorded Bush’s genuine empathy for the disaster he witnessed on his watch. I am no fan of Bush 43’s policies but believed him to be a caring and decent man, in sharp contrast to the current president. As NPR reported,

In a speech at the school, the former president said he will never forget the images of "misery and ruin" from Katrina. He said New Orleans was a city where "the levies gave out but ... [the] people never gave up."

Flash forward from 2005 to 2023, with another disaster in a different state, this one being a raging wildfire in Maui, Hawaii. Leaving aside all the oddities of the fire and circumstances, and the inept government response, focus on today’s president, how he reacted to the disaster and how the media reported on everything.

YouTube screen grab

Lahaina was engulfed in flames on August 8, after a series of smaller wildfires on Maui, driven by high winds from passing Hurricane Dora.

Not only did President Biden not do a flyover, he went on vacation and had nothing to say about the Maui inferno. As Newsweek reported,

President Joe Biden is facing a backlash for his reportedly dismissive responses on Sunday to questions about the recent wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, that have taken the lives of 96 people with more still unaccounted for.

Biden was cycling on vacation at the seaside in Delaware.

After spending a few hours sunbathing on the beach near his home, when asked about the death toll on the island, Biden replied with a "no comment," before leaving.

Compassionate Joe, a week after the Maui fire asked, “Congress for $40 billion to support Ukraine, replenish US disaster aid and bolster border.” That’s on top of the $100+ billion already spent on Ukraine waging a fruitless and losing proxy war against Russia. What did Maui residents get, other than a “no comment”?

According to the Daily Mail, “The White House announced that each affected household in Hawaii will receive a $700 check to address 'immediate needs' including water, food and clothing.” Refugees arriving illegally in America receive three times as much, $2,125, in “resettlement grants” as confirmed by one of the omnipresent “factcheckers”.

How generous to refuges but not American citizens. Perhaps if Lahaina residents flew the Ukrainian flag they would have been better compensated for their death and destruction. Or they should claim “refugee” status for a bigger check.

Did Biden fly to Maui a few days after the fire to offer support, in other words act like a president? No. After his Delaware beach in Delaware, he took another vacation, this time to Lake Tahoe at the $18 million home of Democrat billionaire and former presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

Speaking of vacations, Joe is now in the record books, “President Joe Biden just took his 367th day of vacation in just 2.5 years, which sets a record compared to any other president in recent history.”

Congrats to Vacation Joe. He has taken more than a year of vacation in two and a half years. Maybe we should be grateful although this begs the question of who is running the country?

Who’s paying for this lavish Biden family vacation? Few in the media are asking. When Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is the guest of some rich friend, the media and the left are calling for his impeachment and imprisonment. Not so for the Bidens.

The New York Post did investigate and found, “The First Family is renting the home for fair market value.” What’s fair market value? The Big Guy rate? Is Hunter paying the tab as he does for most of his father’s and family’s expenses? The media is incurious.

Joe finally broke away from his serial vacations and visited Maui on August 20, 12 days after the big blaze. Of course, roads were shut down for his visit, unlike Bush’s flyover of New Orleans. Bush was supposedly insensitive for not landing, with his security measures disrupting rescue and clean up efforts. Biden had no such concerns.

For Biden, corporate media ignored the disruptions, instead lavishing praise on Saint Joe as Reuters did, U.S. “President Joe Biden on Monday praised the ‘remarkable resiliency’ of the people of Maui.”

Giving remarks in Lahaina, Biden channeled his inner-Obama and made his short speech all about himself, and a long ago kitchen fire at one of his beach homes:

"I don’t want to compare difficulties, but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it was like to lose a home," Biden said in Hawaii on Monday. "Years ago, now 15 years, I was in Washington doing ‘Meet the Press.' … Lightning struck at home on a little lake outside the home. Not a lake, a big pond. It hit the wire and came up underneath our home, into the … air condition ducts.

"To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my '67 Corvette and my cat."

Imagine if Bush compared Hurricane Katrina to a flooded basement in his home. Or an overflowing toilet. Obviously, Biden’s Corvette was unharmed as it babysat boxes of classified documents stored unprotected in his garage. According to the DOJ and National Archives, a Corvette provides better document security than the Secret Service at Mar-a-Lago.

Biden also tried to be a comedian, joking about the “hot ground” in Lahaina. "You guys catch the boots out here?" Biden appeared to ask the press watching him. He smiled and said, "That’s some hot ground, man." Heck of a job Joey.

During a ceremony honoring the hundreds killed in the fire, Biden appears to have fallen asleep. Judge for yourself on this video.

Of course, the praetorian guard fact checkers like left-wing Snopes claimed “false”, that Sleepy Joe did not fall asleep. They assert Joe’s eyes were open. They looked closed to me but judge for yourself. Just imagine if that was Trump at a similar event. The media would have nonstop coverage of “Sleepy Don”. But for Joe they run interference.

What do Hawaiians think? As his motorcade passed by, Hawaiian residents raised a particular finger to Joe’s limo, shouting a two letter phrase at him that was not “happy birthday”. They get it.

The bottom line is that President Biden blew it. He couldn’t be bothered to help those he represents and who likely voted for him. Hawaii voted for Biden over Trump by a 30-point margin in 2020. I wonder if they have buyer’s remorse?

The media makes excuses and covers for him. Why? Because Biden is a Democrat. Bush, a Republican, received far different treatment over his disaster response. As would Trump or any more genteel and couth future Republican presidents, for those who grouse about Trump’s “demeanor”.

Two disasters. Two presidents. And two very different media reactions.


Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., is a physician and writer. Follow me on Twitter @retinaldoctor, Substack Dr. Brian’s Substack, Truth Social @BrianJoondeph, and LinkedIn @Brian Joondeph.

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