The Bush administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina played a "very big role" in the Republican Party's losses in this week's midterm elections, according to one of the architects behind the Democrats' victory.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Katrina was on voters' minds, even though few candidates used the disaster as a campaign issue, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:
It came up, he said, in individual conversations on the campaign trail because "in many ways it revealed a White House that was both out of touch on the issue of competence that was a selling point for this White House."
Emanuel said the nation watched the suffering in New Orleans, with people waiting for days on rooftops or stuck in the Superdome and the Convention Center, without functioning bathrooms or adequate supplies of food and water and thought to themselves "that's just not how we treat fellow Americans."
Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution also told the paper that the public's perception of incompetence by the Bush administration in both New Orleans and Iraq were important factors in this week's election. And Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, said many people "internalized" what they saw in Katrina's wake and that the "shock factor" of seeing their government respond so poorly carried over to the election.
Speaking of the shocks caused by Katrina, the Carter Center's 22nd annual symposium on mental health policy taking place this week is focusing on the storm's psychological aftermath, the Associated Press reports:
Panelists said mentally ill patients are still unable to get treatment and medicine because so few services are available in New Orleans and other damaged cities. But the storm also triggered mental problems -- most commonly depression and anxiety -- in people who had never before had them.
"When you see your neighbor's body floating by, it's pretty traumatizing," said Jeff Wellborn, assistant commander for crisis transportation services at the New Orleans Police Department.
Due to storm damage, only two of New Orleans' 11 hospitals are fully functioning. Among the closed facilities is Charity Hospital, which police officers previously relied on to treat people experiencing acute mental health crises. Now, officers are often forced to take those in need of treatment to jail instead.