After a number of conservative blogs, including this one, jumped onto a statement from Barack Obama in his interview with Fox’s Bret Baier. Obama insisted that the “Louisiana Purchase” was not a special deal because it would have covered any state that would have dealt with a natural catastrophe — including Hawaii and an earthquake:
Aha! said the progressive blogs. The joke was on us, because Hawaii actually did suffer an earthquake in 2006, and parts of the state were declared disaster areas for the purposes of relief. As it happens, though, Morgen from Verum Serum happened to be in Hawaii when it happened — and the Louisiana Purchase language that Obama said would have covered Hawaii wouldn’t have applied:
First, there was indeed a relatively significant earthquake in Hawaii in 2006 – magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale. In fact, as chance would have it I was actually in Honolulu at the time for a friend’s wedding. The epicenter of the quake was a relatively uninhabited section of the Big Island, and fortunately there was no loss of life or even major injuries. However, there was some relatively significant damage to roads and structures, and economic disruption due to widespread power outages. (The only personal impact was an extra day in Hawaii due to the closure of the airport.)
Now here is how the Senate health bill defines eligibility for the Medicaid relief provision (Sec. 2006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act):
(2) In this subsection, the term ‘disaster-recovery FMAP adjustment State’ means a State that is one of the 50 States or the District of Columbia, for which, at any time during the preceding 7 fiscal years, the President has declared a major disaster under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and determined as a result of such disaster that every county or parish in the State warrant individual and public assistance or public assistance from the Federal Government under such Act…
President Bush and Obama declared many “major disasters” in the 7 years preceding the possible commencement of this bill, so the key provision is the one limiting applicability only to such states where the Administration determined that EVERY county or parish within the given state was eligible for public assistance from the Federal Government.
The problem is that the earthquake didn’t actually create a state-wide disaster area:
I’ve highlighted what I assume is the key section in bold – notice anything missing? Kalawao County – on the small island of Moloka’i – is not included on this list. But here is where it gets a little interesting. Apparently Kalawao County is the 2nd smallest county in the U.S. (only an est. 117 residents in 2008), and was originally founded as a leper colony. Notably, however, it is officially recognized as a county by the federal government (or at least the Census bureau). Thus it’s omission would seem to be an automatic disqualifying factor based on the text of the Senate bill.
Even more significantly, it looks like the fact that Kauai County was only designated for public assistance under “Categories A and B” may also be a disqualifying factor . Why? Because if this distinction is not a disqualifying factor, then Mississippi would also fall under the provision of the Senate bill. As you can see by this map, every county in Mississippi was declared eligible for public assistance after Hurricane Katrina, but 8 of the counties were designated for “category A & B” assistance only. (You can see the report in text format here.)
So presumably this distinction between categories is what made Mississippi ineligible for the “Louisiana Purchase” when this provision was first inserted into the bill, and then reported in the media. It is a pretty sure bet that given all the media attention and controversy over this, that it would have been reported if Mississippi was also eligible.
In other words, the Obamateurism wasn’t in pulling an earthquake out of thin air; the earthquake and limited declarations of emergency actually did happen. The Obamateurism is using it to defend a payoff to Mary Landrieu by asserting it would have applied to Hawaii when it won’t. Maybe Obama should actually read the bill before giving out rebuttals on nationally-televised interviews.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
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