Only one force in nature delivers more dangerous winds than a hurricane - the suffocating hot air produced by the Republican spin machine.
As overpowering as it is dishonest, most people agree that it's one of the real advantages Republicans have over Democrats. And that dangerous delivery of disinformation was in full force after the criminally negligent handling of Hurricane Katrina.
I know this blog is, as the name says, about Florida politics. So I won't use it to ask people to help the victims (although you should and I imagine many already have). I don't even want to directly discuss the politics of the historically inadequate rescue and recovery debacle. Those implications are as sweeping as the tragedy itself.
But I do want to call out Republicans on their rhetoric that has, unfortunately, ensnared Democratic political leaders and pundits and turned some of us into unwilling allies in their quest to absolve Republicans from blame.
Their first successful sidestep was during the disaster's most dire hours. Instead of speaking about the lack of rescue capabilities, medical provisions and other life-saving supplies, the Republican spin machine fed the media stories of looting.
According to the Republican spin masters, Jeb Knows Hurricanes. He does hurricane preparedness the right way. So when he has an opinion about hurricane looting, he has my rapt attention.
And Jeb, you may surprised to learn, just doesn't think looting is an issue.
Just a few precious months before Katrina crossed Florida en route to Louisiana and Mississippi, Jeb, the Republican Hurricane Governor, relied on his vast experience with hurricanes to veto a bill increasing criminal penalties for ... wait for it ... wait for it ... looting.
I couldn't make this up if I tried.
Earlier this year, Governor Bush vetoed House Bill 207 raising penalties for looting after hurricanes.
Never mind that House Bill 207 passed the House by a vote of 111-0 and sailed through the Senate 40-0. (Kudos to Democrat Senator Dave Aronberg for sponsoring the Senate version, SB 282, before the Republicans decided to pass the House Bill instead so Republican Holly Benson could get credit).
Before Republican leaders like the Governor of Mississippi were droning on about "zero tolerance" for looters, Hurricane Master Jeb decided looting after hurricanes isn't really a big deal.
But that stunning display of hypocrisy didn't stop the Republican public relations "hurricane" from anointing Jeb and His Greatness Mayor Rudy Giuliani (any coincidence that it sounds like a 2008 ticket?) as the disasters-done-the-right-way twins.
Even before food and water arrived, Republican operatives and apologists began chanting that the Katrina failures existed at the "local, state and federal level" - using Jeb and Giuliani to make their case for the way it should have gone.
Republicans, they were saying, obviously know how to handle disasters and the federal government (and the President) would have done the job this time too if those Democrats in New Orleans and the Governor's mansion didn't screw it up.
But to say that the failures were "local, state and federal," isn't just spin, it's crap.
Even after the twin towers fell, Giuliani still had 85% of his police force, nearly 90% of his fire department, a city hall, operational communications, working hospitals and open transportation routes in and out of the disaster area. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, had none of these.
You'll get no argument from me that four hurricanes in one year is no picnic. But not one of them was anything close to Hurricane Katrina which displaced about 30% of Louisiana's population.
A similar event in Florida would displace the entire populations of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Or put another way, Katrina's comparable impact on Florida would have been removing every resident from Clearwater and St. Petersburg through Tampa along the I-4 corridor and all of Orlando.
Now I am sure Jeb Bush is competent but no Governor in any state can afford to lose nearly a third of their state in one day. There's just no way to prepare for that.
Had FEMA waited for days to respond to a similar disaster in Texas, I have no doubt that the Governor there would have freely admitted to failures in his state government. After all, he should be able to lead the charge under similar circumstances - that is to say if Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso and Lubbock all fell into chaos on the same day.
In California, a Katrina impact would have been equal to devastating every one of the state's top 15 cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Riverside, Stockton, Bakersfield, Modesto and Fremont.
Arnold is an action hero, I know. But I think even he would have needed an assist from the feds if something like that happened in California.
I am sure it's hard for Republicans to understand this (since they see no role for government, ever) but this is why we have FEMA and a federal government.
One thing Republicans do understand is shifting the blame. That's why they've been leading vicious attacks of against the two Democrats in Katrina's path. Google Mayor Ray Nagin or Governor Kathleen Blanco. I dare you.
When we allow Republicans to blame local and state leaders, we let them off the hook. When we repeat their absurd arguments, we let people believe that the mistakes were non-partisan.
Republicans ran for and won office based on their supposed ability to be stronger than Democrats in times of crisis. Hurricane Katrina was a test. And they failed it - with tragic human consequences.
Now they're trying to cover their tracks with tales of looting and by spreading the blame around to those who could do little or nothing about it.
As Democrats, we don't have to help them.