It’s hard to imagine a more shameful, indifferent response to the tragic wildfires in Maui than what we’ve seen from President Joe Biden in recent weeks. Upon first being asked about the deadly fires, which have killed 115 people and counting, Biden, who was on vacation at the time, simply said, “No comment.”
When he finally got around to visiting Hawaii (after a second vacation) nearly two weeks after the fires had devastated swaths of Maui, with more than 1,000 people still missing and the death toll rising daily, Biden embarked on a series of almost unbelievably crass and heartless comments.
As Greg Price noted on Twitter, the president “joked about how hot the ground was, mispronounced the names of every Hawaii elected official, told a complete lie about how his house once almost burned down, joked about how he knows what they are feeling because he almost lost his corvette, fell asleep while meeting with Maui residents and is now going back on vacation.” He also opened his remarks in Maui by invoking his late wife and daughter, who died in a car accident in 1972, following his usual pattern of making mass tragedies all about himself.
Hard to believe, but it’s true. Here’s Biden apparently falling asleep during a ceremony honoring Maui’s dead.
Hours later, he was back on a plane to Lake Tahoe.
Whatever one thinks of Biden, his behavior in Maui was simply appalling. In a healthy society with a functioning free press, he would be justly excoriated for his performance. Yet the response of establishment media, not just to Biden’s callousness but to the whole story of the Maui fires, has been a collective shrug.
Contrast this to a previous tragedy: Hurricane Katrina in late summer 2005. Then-President George W. Bush was relentlessly attacked by the national press for months after Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people. Arguably, Katrina was the end of Bush’s presidency. He never recovered from it, mostly because the corporate press maintained the fiction, even years later, that the botched response was all his fault — and worse, that his indifference was motivated by racism because most of the victims were black. (A young Kanye West cemented that defamatory narrative during a fundraising drive on live television when he blurted out, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”)
Hurricane Katrina was indeed one of the worst natural disasters in American history, and the loss of life and destruction in New Orleans was absolutely jaw-dropping. But the chief villain wasn’t Bush, it was state and local officials, whose corruption and incompetence made the situation far worse than it otherwise might have been.
Chief among these was New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who would later be convicted and sent to federal prison on a raft of criminal charges including wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy, and money laundering — some of which occurred during the response to Katrina. It was Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, not Bush, who made the decision not to order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans until just 20 hours before the storm made landfall, stranding tens of thousands of people across the city, many of them trapped on their rooftops surrounded by floodwaters.
It was likewise Nagin, not Bush, who directed people to take shelter in the Louisiana Superdome, despite not having provisioned the massive structure with adequate food or water for the 26,000 people who wound up there. And it was Blanco, not Bush, who delayed activating the Louisiana National Guard to maintain law and order on the streets, and who waited a full two days after Katrina hit the coast to request federal troops.
But the media didn’t focus their fire on Nagin and Blanco. They blamed Bush. What did Bush do, exactly? Like Biden, he’d been on vacation before disaster struck, on a ranch in Texas. This was somehow construed as uncaring. But unlike Biden, he cut his trip short and returned to Washington to direct the federal emergency response just 48 hours after Katrina made landfall. On the way back, he flew over the affected areas, opting not to land for fear that his security detail would hamper relief efforts actively underway.
The media seized on the flyover as an example of how aloof and indifferent Bush was to the suffering in the city below. The sluggishness of the FEMA response — which was partly a consequence of delayed requests from state and local officials and partly a perennial feature of federal bureaucracy — played into this narrative, which reporters and editors pushed hard.
The truth is, the media hated Bush for the Iraq War, which wasn’t going well at the time, and Katrina was their chance to irreparably hurt his reputation and hobble his presidency. And it worked.
Now comes Biden’s “Katrina moment,” but instead of incessant propaganda about how Biden doesn’t care about native Hawaiians, or poor people, or the dead children buried under the charred rubble of Lahaina, we get CNN’s Bill Weir waxing poetic about how Biden “said the right things” and served as “empathizer-in-chief” during his brief visit to Maui:
All of this, by the way, is not to bemoan the hypocrisy of the media’s treatment of Republicans versus Democrats. As we know, it’s not hypocrisy but hierarchy at work here. Biden gets a pass from the media because they’re on the same side, and theirs is the side with all the power.
But it is to say that you should believe what your own eyes and ears tell you: Biden doesn’t really care about the destruction in Hawaii, and neither does the corporate press. The last thing regime media outlets are going to do, even in the face of a deadly natural disaster like this one, is criticize Democrats in power.
That’s true of Biden as much as it’s true of local and state Democrats in Hawaii. The media will not decry the absurdity of Hawaii Gov. Josh Green’s claim that climate change somehow “amplified” the cost of human error. They will not dwell overmuch on M. Kaleo Manuel, the Hawaii water official and left-wing climate activist who refused to release water to landowners to fight fires. They certainly won’t bring up Manuel’s pagan, woke worldview, that water is “one of the earthly manifestations of a god,” and that water shouldn’t just be something we use but something we “revere.”
They won’t do any of that because all of these people are Democrats, and Democrats get protection from the media. Unlike Hurricane Katrina, the corporate press has no convenient Republican culprit to blame for the Maui wildfires, no hapless President Bush to beat up and excoriate. And since any in-depth coverage of the disaster would hurt the Democrats in power, from Maui to Washington, the media will do the bare minimum of coverage and, as soon as they get the chance, happily move on.