Our View: Reid should be admonished for statements

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Respect the position, not the person, especially if that individual is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Nevada senator, one of the most powerful members in Congress, recently insulted every resident of the Gulf Coast region when he claimed Hurricane Katrina “was nothing in comparison” to Hurricane Sandy.

Reid made his comments while advocating for passage of a $9.7 million bill to bring relief to the victims of Sandy, which spread a wide swath of damage along the Atlantic seaboard. In his insolent remarks Reid even managed to single out Louisiana twice, saying the government was on the scene within days, “taking care of Mississippi, Alabama, and especially Louisiana.”

Weighted solely on its merit that comment is ridiculous and factually inaccurate, especially when considering the federal government’s painfully slow response that became a national disgrace and eventually led to the downfall of former FEMA director Mike Brown

Amazingly though, Reid was not finished, adding the caveat “the people of Louisiana were hurt, but nothing in comparison to the people of New England.”

Reid on Monday said he “misspoke,” but only after Louisiana Sen. David Vitter called the out of touch senator an idiot. Good for Vitter.

Reid’s backtracking should be taken for what it is, an apology draped in insincerity in a desperate attempt to display at least a modicum of compassion. No matter, his original comments were windows to his soul, showing his apparent contempt for the residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, which is odd considering his constituents are thousands of miles away.

Reid should be admonished and perhaps sanctioned for his irresponsibility and clear misrepresentation of the facts. Sandy was without question the worst storm to ever strike the northeast, flooding Manhattan and spreading considerable damage in New Jersey. But minimizing Katrina’s impact compared to Sandy is imbecilic, and one has to question his motivation.

Comparing the numbers makes Reid’s pontification even more curious. Katrina claimed 1,833 lives and the final bill was $108 billion in damage.

Sandy, by comparison, killed 131 people, certainly a tragic number but far fewer than Katrina. Damage is estimated at $65 billion, although that tab could rise.

Katrina’s floodwaters were far more damaging, leaving a major metropolitan area under water for weeks and hundreds of thousands of people without a place to call home once the waters receded.

Bodies were uncovered in streets and homes when relief finally arrived. The storm is still considered the country’s’ worst natural disaster, and hopefully there will never be cause for another comparison.

Perhaps Reid was just looking out for the good folks of New England, many of whom are in the early stages of recovery. But to lash out at Katrina victims, to trivialize the suffering and even death of so many, is unacceptable.

Words are the tools of every politician and should be chosen carefully. Reid acted irresponsibly and for that he has rightfully lost all respect among those who call the Gulf Coast region home.