Obama’s Deadly Website Compared to Katrina

“Health Law Rollout’s Stumbles Draw Parallels to Bush’s Hurricane Response” reads the headline over a New York Times “news analysis” piece (11/15/13) by Michael Shear, which is great example of how a dumb idea can form the basis for an article so long as someone in power is advancing that dumb idea.

ACA website

Is this…

But start from the very top:

Barack Obama won the presidency by exploiting a political environment that devoured George W. Bush in a second term plagued by sinking credibility, failed legislative battles, fractured world relations and revolts inside his own party.

That makes it sound like the Bush’s second term was attacked (“devoured”!) from some outside force, or “environment,” and not the result of policy decisions made by the president. (“Fractured world relations” might have something to do with invading Iraq, for instance.)

Shear’s point, though, is to draw a pretty straight line between catastrophes caused by the two leaders: 

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.

Now, to some people, a new law that is running into technical problems with a poorly designed website is not really the same as a massive disaster in one of America’s iconic cities that killed almost 2,000 people.

New Orleans flooded after Katrina (cc photo: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA)

…really similar to this? (cc photo: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA)

So who actually says this? Shear writes:

Republicans readily made the Hurricane Katrina comparison. “The echoes to the fall of 2005 are really eerie,” said Peter D. Feaver, a top national security official in Mr. Bush’s second term. “Katrina, which is shorthand for bungled administration policy, matches to the rollout of the website.” 

 OK, so a former Bush official says so! And guess what, Democrats say this is nonsense: 

The president’s top aides vehemently reject the comparison of Mr. Obama’s fifth year in office to the latter half of Mr. Bush’s second term. They say Americans lost confidence in Mr. Bush because of his administration’s ineptitude on Hurricane Katrina and its execution of the war in Iraq, while Mr. Obama is struggling to extend health care to millions of people who do not have it. 

 One side says A–which forms the premise of the article–while the other side disagrees; it’s the very worst kind of media “balance.”

Oh, and to make things worse, there’s also this line: 

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear arsenal have set off bipartisan criticism.

There are currently no negotiations over “Iran’s nuclear arsenal” because the country does not actually have one, and no one is asserting that it does–other than the New York Times.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.