Bill Clinton saw every disaster as an opportunity for lip-biting political opportunism. There was no such thing as overdoing federal disaster aid. In a 1997 article for Slate.com, Jodie Allen noted that before 1993, no snowstorm or blizzard had been declared a "major disaster or emergency" by the president. But in the first four years of Clinton, nearly four dozen severe winter storms were so designated, 17 in 1996 alone. She called 1996 "a banner year for calamity: FEMA found itself responding to 75 major disasters and eight emergencies so designated by the White House." Crass political opportunism, anyone?
Clinton suffered positively zero media badgering for completely overdoing federal hurricane reactions. In 1999, he pre-emptively declared a state of emergency around Hurricane Floyd, causing some of the worst traffic jams in the history of the South. Luckily, the storm did not kill large numbers of people in their cars, where they are most vulnerable. Emergency experts estimated the evacuation cost at cost more than $2 billion, but since 95 percent of the cost of the evacuation was borne by the evacuees, the Clinton administration proclaimed it was a great success.
Had the Bush administration reacted to oncoming Katrina by ordering a $2 billion evacuation, 95 percent of which cost would be carried by Gulf Coast residents, no journalistic levee would have held back the media's outrage.
No one in the media really objects when FEMA gives out taxpayers' money out like free candy, either. Reporter James Bovard found that after the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif., FEMA began mailing checks out to homeowners even before they'd claimed a dime's worth of damage. All it took to get an average grant of $3,450 was an address in the proper ZIP code. And $142 million in "fast-track assistance" went out to people whose homes required no inspection whatsoever to collect.
The ultimate irony about the media's liberal disaster opportunism is that President Bush isn't any threat to super-sized statism. He hasn't vetoed a single spending bill, no matter how outrageous the congressional pork. He ran for office in 2000 accusing conservatives of balancing budgets on the backs of the poor. But since he continues to enjoy a base of support in his party that prefers less government, and he is George Bush, a liberal media cannot resist the opportunity to administer whippings to conservatives generally, and Bush personally, when disasters hand them a weapon.