On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh went on a blatantly racist rant comparing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to that of the Midwest floods, saying, “I look at Iowa, I look at Illinois — I want to see the murders. I want to see the looting. I want to see all the stuff that happened in New Orleans.” He continued:
I see devastation in Iowa and Illinois that dwarfs what happened in New Orleans. I see people working together. I see people trying to save their property . . . I don’t see a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters, I don’t see a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don’t see a bunch of people raping people on the street. I don’t see a bunch of people doing everything they can . . . whining and moaning, “Where’s FEMA, where’s Bush?” I see the heartland of America. When I look at Iowa and when I look at Illinois, I see the backbone of America.
Listen to the audio at Crooks & Liars.
Limbaugh also claimed “we all know why” we didn’t see “Shepard Smith or Geraldo or anybody else” in Mississippi following Katrina:
This was an excellent opportunity to bash Republicans and conservatives under the time-honored and old-hat cliche that they are racists and that they are sexists and that they are bigots and that they are homophobes, and when a flood happens to minorities, “Republicans don’t care. Bush doesn’t care. I mean, Bush might have even steered the hurricane right in there! Bush wanted half the residents of New Orleans to leave so that the Republicans could win the state in future elections,” da-da-da-da-da.
Hurricane Katrina was one of the five deadliest hurricanes and the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, displacing more than half a million people, killing over 1700, and causing $81.2 billion in direct damage.
FEMA has admitted it is applying lessons learned from its abysmal response to Katrina to the present disaster. Sadly, as the Iowa City Press Citizen reports, “Unfortunately for public safety officials, crime and fires don’t take a break during a natural disaster” — even in the heartland of America. Although the Midwest floods are responsible for a much smaller loss of life, their economic impact will likewise be tremendous — unlike Rush, deadly weather does not care about party, race, or media coverage.
UPDATE: At the Ethicurean, Elanor asks, “Will people survive the flood, loss of cropland, and waterlogged houses just to be poisoned by their drinking water?” She notes that the Bush administration has steadily cut funding to stream and river gauges, the National Water Quality Assessment program, the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, the Agricultural Chemical Use Survey, the National Stream Water Quality Accounting Network, and NASA’s climate satellites.
As the Wonk Room has previously noted, the Bush administration also shuttered regional EPA libraries, reopening them years later in starkly reduced capacity. The EPA’s Midwest Regional Administrator, Mary Gade, was fired after trying to get Dow Chemical to clean up riparian pollution.