The first 3/4 of his speech is excellent with standard, appropriate sorrow and outrage. He tells of meeting evacuees in Houston who are finally in a somewhat stable place, but, as one woman told him, "We had nothing before the hurricane. Now we got less than nothing." The last 1/4 of the speech, picking up on that sentiment, is for me the kind of thing that separates Senator Obama from the handful of other charismatic Democrats on the Hill. Read this and, like me, long for the day when this powerful compelling black man says things like this to America as our President.
There's been much attention in the press about the fact that those who were left behind in New Orleans were disproportionately poor and African American. I've said publicly that I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.It would be a great speech even if Senator Clinton gave it, but when I hear Obama saying it, I'm moved. When I imagine Hilary's delivery, I'm, well, not. I know he made a promise to complete his term. It will take a serious push of Illinois residents to release him from that pledge. I say get to it. As KennyB is always saying, by 2012 or 16, Barack will be considered a Senate insider, with all the baggage that carries.
But what must be said is that whoever was in charge of planning and preparing for the worst case scenario appeared to assume that every American has the capacity to load up their family in an SUV, fill it up with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk, and use a credit card to check in to a hotel on safe ground. I see no evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive indifference on the part of our government towards the least of these.
And so I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect - Democrat and Republican - on not only our individual responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but to our mutual responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.
That is the deeper shame of this past week - that it has taken a crisis like this one to awaken us to the great divide that continues to fester in our midst. That's what all Americans are truly ashamed about, and the fact that we're ashamed about it is a good sign. The fact that all of us - black, white, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat - don't like to see such a reflection of this country we love, tells me that the American people have better instincts and a broader heart than our current politics would indicate.
We had nothing before the Hurricane. Now we have even less.
I hope that we all take the time to ponder the truth of that message.