Doubling Down: Healthcare Site Isn’t Obama’s Katrina–It’s His Iraq War

gregory-katrinaSo it was the New York Times that introduced–by way of a former adviser to George W. Bush (FAIR Blog, 11/15/13)–the notion that the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act website was somehow like Hurricane Katrina. The analogy caught on in the rest of the media.

At the top of his November 15 broadcast, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams: 

Good evening. President Obama now finds himself compared to President George W. Bush, as in the problems with the healthcare plan have become President Obama’s Katrina.

Williams offered up the Katrina analogy to NBC colleague David Gregory for analysis: 

WILLIAMS: David, people start tossing around Katrina comparisons, that’s bound to leave a mark.

GREGORY: Yeah, and the White House doesn’t like it, you can imagine why. They think Republicans are pushing some of this, some allies of former President Bush. It only goes so far. I think if you’re talking about competence of an administration or the ability for government to handle a really big project, maybe there is some comparisons. But it probably stops there.

So this isn’t like a massive disaster that killed almost 2,000 people. That’s good to know. 

Oh wait, David Gregory kept talking:

Frankly, I liken this more, Brian, to the Iraq War. That was life and death. This is not. It’s totally different. But when it comes to an issue through which everything else will be judged, I think that’s the comparison to the previous administration. It’s the one they are trying to fight through now.

All right–so it’s not like Katrina; it’s more like the far more serious catastrophe of the Iraq War, a multi-trillion dollar disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Except, Gregory says, for that life-and-death part; then the analogy doesn’t quite fit. 

Is anyone following this?

This wasn’t a slip of the tongue, either; Gregory made the same claim two days later on Meet the Press (11/17/13). “Is the rough rollout of Obamacare the president’s own Hurricane Katrina?” Gregory asked at the beginning of the show. He delivered his own answer:

People will say this is like Katrina; I think it’s more like Iraq. That was about life and death, this is not. That’s not the comparison. The comparison is everybody looked at Bush through the prism of Iraq. Here, I think people are going to look at Obama through the implementation of Obamacare.

Of course, one could make a pretty good case that access to healthcare is actually life and death. 

For the record, MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews was on hand to say he didn’t think the Katrina analogy really fit. Then again, he also stressed that Obama’s management style left something to be desired, since one couldn’t really be sure who was in charge of executing his plan: 

Look at Japan, the occupation of Japan, it simple: Put one guy in charge, Doug MacArthur. You put somebody in charge and they’re uniquely responsible for its success or failure. Obama doesn’t do things that way.

 So it’s not Katrina, it’s more like the Iraq War, or perhaps the post-World War II occupation of Japan. Got it. 

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.