Is “Katrina” the “gate” of the 2000s?
The 1972 Watergate break-in spawned an army of “gates,” as the expression “whatever-gate” became shorthand for any political scandal. The subsequent decades saw “Travelgate,” “Irangate,” “Nannygate, ”Whitewatergate” and a host of other major and minor political improprieties.
Almost 40 years later, “Katrina” has become popular political shorthand representing the slow response to a disaster, a nod toward the aftermath of the devastating 2005 hurricane in New Orleans by then-President George W. Bush. The perception that the Republican president cared too little about the people of New Orleans to respond quickly to a hurricane that killed some 1,800 Americans was devastating to his public image, and hurt his party in the 2008 election that brought Democratic President Barack Obama to power.
Pundits have been waiting for ”Obama’s Katrina” almost since he took office in 2009.
This week, the White House is facing critics who say that a massive BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico deserves the title. The White House dismissed the thought, and denied it was slow to respond to the spill, which took place after an explosion on a drilling platform that left 11 workers missing and presumed dead.
Earlier this year, there was speculation that Haiti’s devastating earthquake — which killed up to 300,000 people and destroyed much of the infrastructure in the hemisphere’s poorest country — would be his Katrina. In fact, Obama was praised for his quick and significant response.