What’s Important to John McCain

The question of the day is: “What does John McCain think of rebuilding New Orleans?” And the answer is, uhhh, he still isn’t really sure, even after more than two-and-a-half years.

Through the miracles of the Internets, we can travel back in time and see what kinds of public pronouncements McCain’s made in the past about The City That the Corps of Engineers Drowned.

On 16 September 2005, a couple of weeks after the storm and the failure of the levees, Congress was debating a disaster relief bill that equalled five or six months’ spending in Iraq. McCain was among the many Republicans concerned about busting the budget:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said he believed that providing rapid and extensive help overrode the need to cut spending elsewhere. “I think we have to understand that we have a devastation that has to be taken care of,” Mr. Reid said. “And I’m not into finding where we can cut yet.”

That mindset is troubling to other lawmakers who fear that in addition to a reborn Gulf Coast, something else will rise from the storm: record federal deficits.

“We know this is a huge bill,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “We don’t want to lay it on future generations.”

No, we wouldn’t want to have to spend money to stay in New Orleans for 100 or 1,000 years or anything.

The next day, after President Bush’s had said that rebuilding the Gulf Coast would “cost whatever it costs,” McCain was quoted as being among those who wished he’d been a bit more moderate in tone:

Even before the hurricane struck, budget analysts on Capitol Hill were bracing for rising deficits as a result of financial burdens including the war in Iraq and the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. On Friday, Congressional deficit hawks said they were pleased by the president’s call for efforts to compensate for the burgeoning cost of the storm recovery, though they would have preferred that he had included it in his New Orleans speech.

“I think there are plenty of places to go to work, starting with Congressional earmarks,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, referring to pet projects lawmakers place in bills like the transportation measure, which included a $250 million bridge to a small Alaskan island that has 50 residents.

Not, of course, anything in Iraq.

Then, a week later, he again fretted that alll this relief would cost too much, and put a hurt on the all-important Iraq war:

As Mr. Bush spoke in downtown Washington, some of his aides and members of Congress were speculating that the cost of responding to Hurricane Katrina would almost certainly affect the war in Iraq.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has been critical of the administration’s war policy, emerged Tuesday from a meeting with administration officials saying that the White House had not been specific about how it would offset the costs of the federal storm relief.

But inside the administration, a senior diplomat involved in the Iraq effort, who would not allow his name to be used because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that it was hard for him to imagine “Congress spending more on rebuilding schools in Iraq before they rebuild schools in New Orleans.”

Heavens to Betsy. What if they’d been forced to pull out of Iraq to pay for the reconstruction of New Orleans?