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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

McCain tells lies about Hurricane Katrina

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On the third anniversary of the deadliest hurricane in American history, it’s appropriate to remember the 1,800 people who lost their lives in the storm, the countless residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who lost their homes, and the promise made to the victims that the negligence and disorganization displayed by the Bush administration would never happen again.

But it’s not appropriate to tell lies about helping Katrina victims—especially if you’re running for president. In April, Sen. John McCain tried to generate headlines by visiting New Orleans and promising that Bush-style bungling would “never happen again in this country.”

Two weeks ago, in his discussion with Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church, the Republican presidential nominee told a whopper.

“I went to New Orleans after Katrina,” McCain told the Orange County minister. “The Resurrection Baptist Church was doing tremendous work with thousands of volunteers, I’m sure probably from here at Saddleback, coordinating the efforts of thou sands of volunteers, including my own church, the North Phoenix Baptist Church, who came from all over America. And various authorities, off the record, told me, off the record, that they were doing so much more good than the government organizations, that it was incredible.”

But when, exactly, did McCain have this conversation? Talking to Warren, McCain implies that he rushed to the damage area and inspected the recovery efforts.

But, in truth, McCain didn’t go to New Orleans until March 2006, six months after the disaster. An estimated 140 members of Congress visited the region before McCain did. Three years ago, as Katrina was battering the Gulf Coast, McCain was celebrating his 69th birthday with a big cake and a meet-and-greet with President George W. Bush in Arizona. The “let them eat cake” photo of the two men has taken on a life of its own on the Internet.

A few weeks after the disaster, McCain voted against establish ing a congressional commission that would study the response to Katrina. He opposed it again in 2006. As Factcheck.org reports, when asked earlier this year why he voted against creating the Katrina commission, McCain denied doing so. “McCain responded that he ‘supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy.’ That’s not true,” the Web site states.

What’s more, McCain voted against extending unemployment benefits to the victims of the hurricane and spending $28 billion for hurricane relief.

McCain told Newsweek in April that he hadn’t come up with any plans for a still-recovering Gulf Coast. “I really don’t know,” he told Newsweek’s Holly Bailey.

So how will he deliver on his promise that a tragedy like Katrina “will never happen again”?

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.