New Figures Now Reveal More Than 5,000 Were Killed When Maria Hit Puerto Rico

As we debate whether the numbers of people who were killed when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, 2017 were deliberately under-reported or just badly counted, there’s one thing Trump knew. It was nothing compared to a “real catastrophe like Katrina.”

Even as Trump made that insulting comment the following month, average Puerto Ricans were certain that many more than the 16 people he touted had been lost.

A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine estimates the actual death toll to be closer to 5,000. Even worse, “one third of the deaths were attributed to delayed or interrupted health care.”

Hurricane Katrina, which hit South Florida and Louisiana in August, 2005, resulted in 1,833 fatalities.

Trump made no secret he considered money spent in Puerto Rico to be both unnecessary (since he believed it to be full of non-citizens) and an annoyance. Could his attitude have led to a tightening of the purse strings that contributed to the death toll?

Let’s Do Math! Republicans, Please Grab a Pencil

Former Pres. George W. Bush on one of his many breaks, which often involved falling off a mountain bike, falling off a Segway, strumming a guitar while New Orleans drowned, and choking on pretzels.

The Obama family is on vacation. That means it’s time for Republicans and tea partiers to take a break from obstructing legislation, nomination approvals, and any other work in Congress (including suing the president for taking appropriate executive action to counter their inaction) to express ginned-up outrage that the people’s business won’t be done if the president takes a few days off.

It’s also time for the rest of us to do some math, based on figures researched by Politifact’s Truthometer:

  • Number of vacation days, in whole or part, enjoyed by Pres. Obama at this point in his term, which on July 20, 2014 happened to be exactly six years and seven months: 92
  • Number of vacation days, in whole or part, enjoyed by Pres. George W. Bush at the same point in his term: 367

Let’s put these numbers in context.


Bringing “I Blame Obama” to a New Level


Louisiana Republicans who blame Pres. Obama for the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Obama was eight months into his term as a freshman senator when the disaster struck, but only 28% of the state’s GOP voters blame George “Doin’ a helluva job Brownie” Bush, despite the fact that he was actually president at the time. The other 44% said they can’t say who was at fault, or more likely, can’t admit it was Pres. Bush.

Rush Limbaugh: Obama, Acting Through the National Hurricane Center, Tried to Ruin Republican Convention

Flooding in Plaquemines Parish, La. is eerily reminiscent of that other storm that Rush Limbaugh doesn't want us to talk about but the seventh anniversary of it is today

Rush Limbaugh has to be thinking that now would be as good a time as any to retire. His recent assertion that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is conspiring to re-elect the president is all the evidence anyone needs that Rush would probably be happier at home, out of the reach of microphones.

Here’s what Rush said on his show earlier this week:

The hurricane center is the regime. The hurricane center is the Commerce Department. It’s the government. It’s Obama.

And as Obama, the NHC obviously wanted to disrupt the Republican National Convention by forecasting, while Isaac was still a tropical storm south of Haiti, that it could strengthen and threaten the gulf coast of Florida, including Tampa. Just listen to Rush’s version:


Bush Cites Criticism by Kanye West As Worst Moment of Presidency – Not 9/11, Not Iraq, Katrina, Economic Collapse


George Bush’s announcement last summer that he would come out of seclusion in October to promote a book about his presidency written in his name titled “Decision Points” sent Republicans into a panic. Within days of the announcement, word came that Bush had delayed his press junket until after the elections.

Lauer: “I wonder if some people are going to read that, now that you’ve written it, and they might give you some heat for that. And the reason is this — “

Bush [interrupting]: “Don’t care.”

Republicans panicked because they suspected, rightly, that having Bush out doing press would remind voters about the bad old days when he and his cronies in Congress, including Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were in charge. His presence would have disrupted their campaign to shift blame for the crises Bush created and/or ignored to Pres. Obama — a campaign that ultimately worked out remarkably well for them in the midterm elections.

The election is over, and Bush is back and, well, badder than ever. The first soundbite from his book tour proves that Republicans were right to keep him under wraps.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer set to air next week, Bush offers a glimpse of just how disruptive he could have been to his party’s midterm campaign:


Worst Presidential Vacation Ever: 5 Years Ago, Bush Took Time Out to Politick While New Orleans Drowned

George Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Monday, Aug. 29, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall at 7 a.m. Of course, he wasn’t completely off duty — he had some politicking to do in the west that day. During the morning he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff who was in Washington — but the topic was not the disaster, it was immigration. At around that same, mid-morning on Monday, the first levee failed and the flooding began, but it would be 24 hours before Chertoff was made aware of it.

Meanwhile, Bush stopped briefly at the Phoenix airport to cut up for the cameras with GOP Sen. John McCain, his bitter rival from the 2000 presidential primaries. It was McCain’s 69th birthday, and Bush’s people had supplied him with a birthday cake to use as a prop. Later, Bush stopped at two senior citizens centers for some politicking — he was out promoting his unfunded Medicare drug benefit.

Bush made a quick stop in Phoenix to clown around with his frenemy Sen. John McCain, whose birthday is Aug. 29. Inset: Meanwhile Americans were drowning in New Orleans
Bush made a quick stop in Phoenix to clown around with his frenemy Sen. John McCain, whose birthday is Aug. 29. Inset: Meanwhile Americans were drowning in New Orleans

That day, Bush received an urgent request from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, that read, “Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” But that night, as thousands of Americans huddled in the attics of their flooded homes in New Orleans, Bush turned in early without responding to the governor’s request.

The next morning, Aug. 30, Bush gave a speech promoting his status as a wartime president at a naval base in Colorado. About noon, Chertoff was finally informed that the levees had failed 24 hours earlier.

Tuesday afternoon, Bush promoted his unfunded Medicare drug benefit at another senior center. After the event, at around 2 p.m., Bush was photographed goofing around with a guitar given to him by country singer Mark Willis.

Left: Bush plays a guitar presented to him by Country singer Mark Wills, right, backstage after Bush gave a political speech. Right: At the time of the speech, people were wading through the flooded streets of New Orleans
Left: Bush plays a guitar presented to him by Country singer Mark Wills, right, backstage after Bush gave a political speech. Right: At the time of the speech, people were wading through the flooded streets of New Orleans

Aides will later claim that Bush had refused to watch television news coverage of the disaster. At 4 p.m., he made his first public statement, during which he seemed “casual to the point of carelessness,” according to the New York Times. At 7 p.m., Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice attended a performance of “Spamalot,” the Monty Python musical, on Broadway.


LBJ Visited New Orleans Within 24 Hours After Hurricane Betsy

“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”

Hurricane Betsy came ashore at Grand Isle, Louisiana, on the evening of Sept. 9, 1965. Like Hurricane Katrina would do 40 years later, the surge devastated New Orleans, flooding parts of the city, including the Lower Ninth Ward, for days.

One striking difference between Betsy and Katrina was the response of the president and the federal government. Less than 24 hours after Betsy hit and New Orleans was flooded, Pres. Lyndon Johnson was in the city, making surprise visits to shelters, offering encouragements to the city’s newly homeless residents.

Here is a transcript of LBJ’s remarks upon landing at the New Orleans airport at 3 p.m. that day, via John Edwards ’08 Blog:

Today at 3 o’clock when Senator Long and Congressman Boggs and Congressman Willis called me on behalf of the entire Louisiana delegation, I put aside all the problems on my desk to come to Louisiana as soon as I could. I have observed from flying over your city how great the catastrophe is that you have experienced. Human suffering and physical damage are measureless. I’m here this evening to pledge to you the full resources of the federal government to Louisiana to help repair as best we can the injury that has been done by nature.

And then there is this:

In the Ninth Ward, Johnson visited the George Washington Elementary School, on St. Claude Avenue, which was being used as a shelter. “Most of the people inside and outside of the building were Negro,” the diary reads. “At first, they did not believe that it was actually the President.” Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way.

“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”

The diary describes the shelter as a “mass of human suffering,” with people calling out for help “in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages. . . . It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction.” According to an article by the historian Edward F. Haas, published fifteen years ago in the Gulf Coast Historical Review, Johnson was deeply moved as people approached and asked him for food and water; one woman asked Johnson for a boat so that she could look for her two sons, who had been lost in the flood….

It’s hard to imagine George W. Bush visiting a shelter so soon after a disaster — or rather it is impossible to imagine because it would never happen.

Why You Should Care About New Orleans

On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall near New Orleans, all the ink was about the progress, and lack thereof, in restoring the city and the rest of the Gulf coast.

We live in an era of failed leadership. Corrupt and incompetent politicians. Thieving CEOs. Priests as pedophiles. Media monopolies. A president’s unpopular, intractable war. Steroid-enhanced sluggers.

Two years later, Ron Fournier says it’s time to start learning the real lessons of Katrina, and they’re not about wind or water.

We need to wake up to the fact that we are all just one big storm or disaster away from being one of those people whose calls for help were answered by voice mail.

Katrina is old news, right? New Orleans — who cares? It’s just another big city with big problems, bad luck and bad weather. Get over it.

Actually, please don’t.

Don’t ever get over the tragedy of New Orleans. It’s your tragedy, too.

What happened to this historic city two years ago is more than the obvious cautionary tale of what might befall your community after a natural disaster or a terrorist strike. It’s also a sad reflection of what’s happening now — today, in your hometown and across an anxious and ailing nation…

If this country can’t help New Orleans rebound — if we and our leaders break the promises made to its citizens — what are the odds your health care will ever get cheaper? Your bridges safer? Your schools better?

“New Orleans is an incubator for all our nation’s ills,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, author of “The Great Deluge,” a book about Katrina.

“If you study what’s going on in New Orleans, it’s just an exaggerated version of what’s hitting us in many areas of the country,” he said. “Just pick your topic.”

OK, let’s start from the top.


As Hurricane Season Starts, Entire 82nd Airborne Redeploys Overseas

The 82nd’s Robert Stanley patrols the flooded streets of New Orleans in 2005. He was killed March 2007, in Samarra, Iraq.

Earlier this year, with recruitment tanking and its forces strapped down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division was forced to disband one of its best known missions, the “division ready brigade” — a contingent of troops on stand-by at all times ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours.

The 82nd’s ready brigade — an integral part of domestic disaster preparedness — has been disbanded.

The 82nd’s ready brigade has been an integral part of the United States’ relief preparations for domestic disasters such as hurricanes for years. But now, as the 2007 hurricane season begins, the entire 82nd Division is leaving United States for the first time since it was deployed to Iraq in 1990 as part of Operation Desert Storm — and none of its divisions will return until September, when the season is over:

When a jet lifts off Sunday at Pope Air Force Base with the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the last load of his 3,300 paratroopers aboard, the 82nd Airborne Division will notch one more hard-earned mark in a history so often described as “storied.”

For only the second time since World War II, all of the division’s combat infantry brigades will be at war. Other 82nd units are deployed also, bringing the total overseas to nearly 17,000 paratroopers.

One of the most memorable successful stateside deployments of the 82nd’s ready brigade was to South Florida in response to the Hurricane Andrew disaster in August 1992. The 82nd provided food, shelter and medical attention in the region for 30 days.

In 2005, however, Pres. George Bush’s incredible six-day delay after Katrina before sending the 82nd’s ready brigade to New Orleans was the worst of a cluster of bad decisions that came out of the White House. It was this failure of leadership that finally woke many Americans up to the depth of the president’s incompetence.

On Monday, August 30, 2005, the day after Katrina’s storm surge breached the levies and flooded New Orleans’ low-lying neighborhoods, the 82nd was put on alert at Fort Bragg, N.C., for deployment into the region:

[A] battalion would have been ready to move as early as Tuesday, said Major Gen. Bill Caldwell, commander of the 82nd .

“We could have immediately responded within 18 hours,” he said. “We could have come here, had we been asked, at any point.”

As the days dragged on in New Orleans — while thousands of people were stranded in the Superdome, dozens were rescued off roofs and others drowning in the flooded streets — millions of Americans watching the disaster on television were wondering — Where is the 82nd?

It wasn’t until six days after Katrina struck, at 10 o’clock Saturday morning, September 3, that the 82nd was called into New Orleans. Even then, Pres. Bush made the announcement to the media before he or anyone in his government officially notified commanders of the 82nd’s ready brigade.

The 2006 storm season was comparatively mild, but now as the 2007 season gets underway, the American South faces its first hurricane season without the 82nd Airborne on alert and ready to move in if the unthinkable happens — again.

Katrina II: Bush Fails to Respond to Tornado’s Aftermath in New Orleans

As of 6:30 AM Pacific, Pres. Bush has still not responded to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s request to declare a state of emergency in New Orleans in the wake of devastation caused by a tornado that ripped through area at around 3:00 AM Central Time Wednesday morning:

The F-2 tornado skipped across the region, hitting homes in Westwego, Carrollton and Gentilly. It produced winds well over one hundred miles per hour and was responsible for significant damage to an area that is still reeling from Katrina. A few dozen people were injured and one elderly lady was killed when her trailer was overturned.

The New Orleans area is now in shock once again, as over 200 homes and dozens of trailers were damaged by this violent tornado. Many people are asking why Mother Nature dealt another blow to the area. Local residents in the path of the deadly tornado, who did not finish rebuilding from Katrina or just finished renovating their homes, need to start over.

Unlike the delayed reaction to Katrina, yesterday, political leaders jumped into action quickly. [Gov.] Blanco and [New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin] toured the damaged areas and offered support to victims. A state of emergency was called locally, and Governor Blanco asked President Bush to declare a federal state of emergency which will qualify local victims to receive government assistance.