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It’s a universal truth: Wet ground brings the worms to the surface.

Democrats, led by Howard Dean, met in New Orleans last week to figure out how they’re going to use hurricane Katrina for political gain – unless they luck out and there’s another disaster between now and Election Day.

The attempt to capitalize, either financially or politically, from misery is a time-honored tradition among power seekers, money grubbers and demagogues.

Much of the mainstream media is reporting Howard Dean’s gathering in New Orleans as if it’s the first time the Democrats have considered using Katrina as an election theme for ’06 and ’08. Not so. The gears were in motion long before even the time Geraldo did his Moses-of-the-media routine in the Superdome.

One of the leadoff hitters in this area, as it concerned Katrina, was Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Whenever disaster strikes, you can be assured that there will be a Kennedy there to say something dopey.

As bodies floated in the water and people were still trapped on roofs and in attics, Kennedy Jr. placed part of the blame for Katrina on Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for the part he played in “derailing the Kyoto Protocol.” It was pathetic, even by Kennedy standards.

Besides, does a Kennedy really want to start pointing a finger of blame when drownings are involved?

At the same time, former lamprey on the shark of the Clinton administration, Sydney Blumenthal, wrote in a Salon column titled “No one can say they didn’t see it coming,” the universally predictable response: Bush’s fault.

Batting cleanup was Newsweek columnist and Democrat cheerleader Eleanor Clift, who shook her droopy liberal pom-poms because she saw an opportunity for the Democrats. Wrote Clift not long after the hurricane: “If there’s an upside to Katrina, it is that the Republican agenda of tax cuts, Social Security privatization and slashing government programs is over.” Wow. If there are any more “upsides” for Democrats, we’ll all be dead.

Now, Democrats have gathered in New Orleans to figure out an official campaign course to take on Katrina, and the best levees in the world won’t be able to hold back the storm surge of B.S.

Exploiting tragedy is nothing new. The only thing that’s changed is the focus of the blame. For example, in 1900, a big hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, killing at least 6,000 people. What caused that hurricane? The prudent Democrat of the day would have pointed the finger at then Texas Gov. Joseph Sayers for his unwillingness to create a “Holstein Treaty” to regulate methane emissions from cow toots at dairy farms.

In the year A.D. 79, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum. There was also widespread looting. At the time, there were people, probably many of them political opponents, who blamed the disaster on Roman Emperor Titus. Why was Titus blamed by so many? Simple. Because George W. Bush wasn’t born yet.

It just goes to show, exploiting tragedy is the world’s third-oldest profession, right behind prostitution and politics – practitioners of the latter, by the way, often get busted for soliciting the first two.

It defies real-world logic why any politician – especially one who is for federalizing everything, up to and including your underwear, and who is for a bureaucracy that is expanding at the rate of Michael Moore’s waistline on all-you-can-eat day at Krispy Kreme – criticizes any government response as slow and dumb. Of course, politicians don’t live in the real-world, which is why Dr. Frankenstein can be getting choked to death by his hideous creation and conclude that it’s happening because he didn’t make the monster strong enough.

Let the Democrats’ visit to New Orleans to stage discussions on how to pimp Katrina serve as a reminder. To paraphrase something I’ve often written, a Democrat complaining about a daft bureaucracy is like the Menendez brothers whining about being orphans.

Conservative Republicans need to campaign on Katrina as well, using the opposing lessons as examples of why privatization, not federalization, is the best avenue to follow in just about any area of life.

That said, speaking as a frequent critic of bureaucracy, in hindsight, it’s somewhat surprising how well the government did perform in the wake of Katrina. Not nearly as efficient and dexterous as private charities and companies, of course, but for an oversized school bus racing on a go-cart track, not bad.

Maybe I shouldn’t mention buses until the New Orleans mayoral runoff is completed.

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