Maui Shmaui

Maui Shmaui

Almost exactly 18 years ago, we wrote a long piece about the factors that exacerbated the effects of Hurricane Katrina, particularly on the state of Louisiana.  Although our work then was still technically proprietary to institutional clients, that piece – “Nighttime on the City of New Orleans” – was widely distributed, forwarded by readers, picked up by media, and was, for years, freely available on various sites around the interwebs.  It was a long and detailed rebuttal of the media narrative surrounding the events prior to, during, and after the storm made landfall.  We carefully examined the roles of state and local officials in precipitating the slow and uncoordinated response to the hurricane, painstakingly documented the public corruption in and around New Orleans that virtually ensured that various government agencies would be unprepared to do their jobs, and explained why the demands for immediate and unrestrained federal intervention were both unfeasible and undesirable.

We did all of this for a couple of reasons.  First, foremost, and most pretentiously, we believe that the “truth” matters and that the media narrative was about as far from the truth as possible.  Second, we have always believed and have always argued that Washington is merely “where the score is kept,” while the real battles over politics and policy are fought in the nation’s communities, cities, and states.  In the context of Katrina, the interminable insistence that all problems with the response emanated from Washington (and from the White House in particular) and that all solutions must also emanate from Washington was bound to spread confusion and unrealistic expectations, leaving the actual, solvable issues unaddressed.

The bad news is that, as is usually the case, no one listened to us, and as a result, Katrina hung like a cloud over the rest of the Bush presidency and aided the Democrats’ return to the Congressional majority.  Perhaps most notably, Katrina also solidified in the minds of many people – especially young people – that, in the words of the American Left’s former favorite neo-Nazi: “George Bush (and the entire GOP, by extension) doesn’t care about black people.”  Political observers – conservatives mainly – often wonder how and when the nation that elected and reelected a black president came to be seen as “pervasively racist” nonetheless.  We’d suggest that the Katrina narrative gets far too little consideration in such conversations.

In any case, the good news here is that the mainstream media seems to have learned something from their biased and unhelpful Katrina coverage.  At the very least, they no longer seem to believe that natural disasters are the fault of or require an immediate response from the President of the United States.  It has been nearly two weeks since the worst wildfire in more than a century hit Hawaii’s island of Maui.  More than 100 people are confirmed dead.  More than 1000 people are still missing, many of them children.  In the aftermath of the devastation, President Biden lounged for a few hours on Rehoboth beach and told reporters that he had no comment on the events of the deaths.  After returning to the White House for a few days and NOT making Maui a priority, Biden then left to go on vacation to the northern part of a state that was, at the same time, preparing to be hit by its first hurricane in more than eight decades.  Biden didn’t cancel his trip.  He didn’t put his vacation on hold.  He didn’t make any public statements about the federal government’s disaster preparedness.  And he still hasn’t been to Maui.

And you know what?  No one cares.  Or, at least no one in the mainstream media cares.

For the most part, we don’t care either.  It’s clear that the decisions that precipitated the devastating wildfire were made at the state and local levels.  It’s clear that the people in charge of making split-second choices in an emergency situation are local officials who are steeped in ideological nonsense.  It’s clear that one-party rule in Hawaii (easily one of the furthest Left states in the nation) has had precisely the negative consequences one would expect (consequences that are, not coincidentally, rather similar to the consequences that one-party rule had in New Orleans).  If Hawaii and Hawaiians are going to deal with this tragedy and effectively prevent future such incidents, they are going to have to learn lessons that are specific to their unique circumstances.  Hawaii, perhaps more than any other state, has conditions that are different from any place else in the country.  And therefore, solutions to its problems should come from Honolulu at the furthest, not from Washington D.C., nearly 5000 miles away.

The catch, of course – and thus the “worst” news – is that the media’s newfound belief in the responsibility of state and local governments for natural disaster preparation is not exactly genuine.  It is, rather, part of its uncoordinated but nevertheless concerted effort to do whatever is necessary to prevent Republican presidential candidates like Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, and especially Donald Trump from using Maui (or Hurricane Hillary or anything else, for that matter) to get a leg up in the 2024 presidential election.

The media has long been biased against conservatives.  About this, there is little serious argument.  Still, most of the time and for most of the last few decades, they have tried to fake objectivity, if only to satisfy their own overblown sense of “professionalism.”  Just over seven years ago, however, everything changed.  With the stroke of a pen (or the click of his computer keyboard) Jim Rutenberg, a media columnist for The New York Times, provided his fellow “liberal activists with bylines” all the moral justification they needed to abandon the principle of objectivity for the very limited but extremely important case of undermining Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations.  He wrote:

If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional….

Translation: everything we claim to believe in is threatened by Donald Trump.  Therefore, we must abandon everything we claim to believe in to prevent him from taking it away from us.

And they did.  And they’re still doing so.  The “limited” abandonment of principle has – shockingly! – become a permanent feature of elite journalism.

DeSantis, of course, is a bigger threat than Trump because he’s smarter.  And Vivek?  H’oh Boy!  He’s the scariest of them all!  They’re ALL a threat to everything we claim to believe in.  And therefore…Maui, Shmaui.

At its heart, this story is one of liberal media hypocrisy.  But it is hypocrisy motivated by the lie, told by elite journalists, that everything we believe in must be destroyed in order to save everything we believe in.

As we say, that’s the worst news of all.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.