The Happy Leftie

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Democrats volunteer for Katrina clean-up

Okay, fine. Move aside and let the grown-up normal people take care of what the Administration has no interest in whatsoever. Dean's so right on. We've got the heart, we'll take the lead, and we'll do the work if no one else will. And not with some cheap fly-over photo-op either. -hl

Dean: Voters will remember Katrina

Standing beside rusted-out cars and soggy mounds of debris, Democratic chairman Howard Dean criticized the Bush administration's post-hurricane recovery effort and predicted voters would remember its "incredible failure."

"This is a searing, burning issue," Dean said. "I think it's going to cost George Bush his legacy and it's going to cost the Republicans the House and maybe the Senate, and maybe very well the presidency in the next election."

In turn, Republicans accused Dean and his party of playing election-year politics with a tragedy.

"It's shameful that Democrats are so eager to exploit this national crisis that they revert to finger-pointing for political gain rather than talking about any solutions," said Tracey Schmitt, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman.

The Democratic National Committee is holding its three-day spring meeting in New Orleans, a location chosen so Democrats could help in the recovery effort and highlight what the party calls President Bush's woeful response to the storm that devastated this Gulf Coast city.

Reminders are stark eight months after Hurricane Katrina. In the hardest-hit neighborhoods, blue tarps dot some rooftops, other homes are in heaps and streets nearly empty. Campaign signs remind residents of the mayoral election Saturday, a race in which rebuilding the city is the main issue.

Dean portrayed Democrats as the ones who value community and take care of all Americans, attributes that he said Republicans don't have. "They are the party of selfishness and self-absorption," Dean told the party's executive committee in a morning meeting.

By afternoon, Dean had donned yellow and red gloves, a white plastic jumpsuit and sneakers to help volunteers clean out the one-story brick home where Vincent Copper and the family he raised had lived since 1971.

The home is in the Lower Ninth Ward, which sustained much damage, and Copper said that Friday was the first day since the hurricane that folks had come to tend to his house.

"It's been slow," Copper, a 68-year-old retired shipyard operator, said of the cleanup effort. "They say Rome wasn't built in a day, so ..." he said, his thought trailing off as he gazed at what was left of his home.

Put to work, Dean guided a wheelbarrow full of damp insulation, an old lamp and clothes around the windowless house, past an old trunk askew on the muddy lawn to the front yard where he emptied the load onto an enormous trash pile.

The scene felt somewhat like a campaign event. Dean, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, left the site after about an hour. Democrats worked in two-hour shifts alongside other volunteers who had spent much of the day cleaning. Dean was there just long enough to help out a little and try to make a point.

"It's worse than the television pictures," Dean said.

Standing beside two mangled cars in Copper's side lawn, Dean said: "I hate to be partisan at a time like this" - and then began his criticism of the GOP.

"This is why the Republicans are going to be out of business," the Democratic party chief said evenly. "Months after the hurricane, it still looks like this. This is ridiculous."

Dean acknowledged that rebuilding takes time, but he said that if President Clinton were still in the White House, "the neighborhood would be cleaned up."

The American people, Dean said, will never forget the president's missteps in how he has handled the hurricane's aftermath.

"Everybody in America saw what happened. It was an incredible failure of this administration," he said. "These folks need to be out of office and we need to put some people in office who know how to deal with the big emergencies."