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Will Katrina have the same influence as Monica? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I wish the comparison between the influence of the “Monica scandal” on the Clinton administration and the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Bush Administration would stop since it belittles the tragedy.

The effects of the paralyzing Hurricane are clearly atrocious and the great loss of life has been horrific. America’s shock and mourning is reminiscent of 9/11; the latter a result of a terrible act carried out by the powers of darkness and evil, the former tragedy caused by the forces of nature. In both cases, the victims are ordinary people working for their living and for a brighter, or less painful, tomorrow.

The political price that the Bush administration will pay remains unclear as Americans continue to witness the impact of the delay and negligence in dealing with foreseeable incident. Americans may have understood the Bush administration’s inability to predict the 9/11 events, but how can they begin to forgive an administration that allowed themselves to be so unprepared for an event that was expected to some degree or another? The weather forecasts and the predictions made by different departments indicated that a disaster could follow a hurricane, especially in the case of New Orleans, a city that stood below sea level.

For the first time, the American media are furious and are revealing the shortcomings and disadvantages of their governing administration. In his show “Nightline”, Ted Koppel showered Michael Brown, the American official in charge of American relief efforts, with criticism, as other TV programmes direct their dissatisfaction at Bush himself.

John Stewart, an American commentator, made a statement loaded with irony, he said that Hurricane Katrina “requires a person to move far from the incident to form an objective view and I believe that President Bush’s view is the most objective since he was so far removed from the incident”. It is comments such as this that have been a main feature of American media coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated three states the size of the United Kingdom.

People who are well acquainted with American society can appreciate the saying “politics is always local”, since Hurricane Katrina is likely to outstrip Bush’s foreign agenda in the same way the far less tragic “Monica Scandal” overshadowed Clinton’s foreign policy.

In the days that followed the hurricane, we heard nothing about Iraq or Afghanistan or even Osama Bin Laden. Media coverage since that morning has focused on the hurricane, and its victims who have been forced to migrate or search for shelter. A flood of high quality news stories have instigated the tears of viewers, as they feed feelings of hatred towards the American administration in general and the Bush administration in particular. Moreover, it is this that has led the president to personally declare his dissatisfaction with the performance of the federal government in handling the incident.

In the same way that Monica negated all Clinton’s initiatives for solving the Arab Israeli conflict and restrained his ability to win American consensus about his proposed solution, we find that Hurricane Katrina has shifted the President’s focus away from the Middle East. It is quite clear that the Bush administration will not have enough time to witness the establishment of a Palestinian state, unless they choose to adopt the ideas of Aaron David Miller who suggests establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders, and I doubt they will. The American administration is now beleaguered by internal pressures due to heightened anger and a question that plagues every American citizen today; how could this happen in America?

Another important question about America’s ability to reform the world, when they are unable to address internal crises is also circulating.

The Bush administration will have to work very hard in order to salvage its reputation and regain the confidence of the American public.

Moreover, the situation in Palestine and Israel is not encouraging the administration to take any positive steps. The irony of fate has now trapped us between two bitter choices, Netanyahu and Sharon. The irony of fate may even drive Palestinians themselves to support Sharon in his campaign against Netanyahu and probably many Arabs would prefer Sharon to his counterpart. This disproportionate and confused situation makes the idea of a solution far fetched.

It will take months for the President to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, and it may be another year before we can discuss the Palestinian/Israeli situation again. Another year will remain during which the President will be as powerless as a “lame duck”, as Americans would say. A new Presidential campaign will commence and the focus will be shifted once again.

Hence, Hurricane Katrina will at least influence the Middle East situation as much as Monica Lewinsky influenced the performance of the Clinton administration. Clinton did not have enough American support to enable him to pressure Ehud Barak; this resulted in him placing more pressure on the Palestinians, until they rejected his offer. He then absolved himself of responsibility by saying that Arafat rejected the generous offer. The truth was that Clinton did not have sufficient political credit to allow him to propose such a huge initiative at that time. Therefore, the question remains; will Katrina leave President Bush with some political credit that will allow him to achieve the dream of the two countries? I have deep doubts about that.