Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Wednesday that it "doesn't make sense" to rebuild New Orleans. "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," he said. Hastert's office backtracked Thursday. It put out a statement in which Hastert said he was "not advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated," and a spokesman said the speaker was only "asking the questions everyone is asking."
As long as Hastert is asking questions, there are a couple we'd like to see him ponder. First, why did Hastert, as the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, preside over massive budget cuts for the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers? Second, if Hastert is so concerned about dumping taxpayer money into rebuilding a U.S. city ravaged by a hurricane, why is he so sanguine about dumping money into rebuilding a foreign country ravaged by war?
On a fundraising trip in California last month, Hastert said that the American people "understand that if you pull out [of Iraq] now it sends a terrible signal around the world and we need to finish a job that we started." Hastert will convene the House of Representatives in an hour to approve $10.5 billion in aid for the Gulf Coast. That's less than what the United States spends in two months in Iraq -- and about one-twentieth of what the U.S. has spent on the war so far. And while construction work can be dangerous, we're betting that 1,885 Americans won't die while rebuilding New Orleans.