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Government Built It? Louisiana GOP Delegate Grudgingly Praises U.S. Gov’t Levee Repair

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As Hurricane Isaac delivers crushing wind and astounding rainfall, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman had a moment to speak with Jonathan Johnson, a member of Louisiana’s delegation at the Republican National Convention. She asks him about the merits of the GOP’s “We Built It” slogan just as government-backed rebuilding levee projects are protecting New Orleans from devastating flooding during the storm. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, as Hurricane Isaac turned to Tropical Storm Isaac, lashing the Gulf Coast with heavy rain and flooding parts of Louisiana, members of the Louisiana delegation anxiously awaited word whether their families back home were riding out the storm. I spoke to Jonathan Johnson, an at-large Republican delegate from the city of Slidell, just outside New Orleans.

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Well, right now we have a lot of rising water coming in, so that’s the biggest problem. So we need the rain and the win to stop.

AMY GOODMAN: Has your house been affected?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: I just got off the phone with my wife. We’ve got about three more feet 'til it gets in there. So, I live in an older house. It's about five or six feet off the ground. And so, there’s water in the little canals and bayous that we live around, and it’s rising right now, so…

AMY GOODMAN: Has the rebuilding of the levees helped?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Well, we don’t really live in an area with levees like New Orleans. We’re on the north shore of the lake right around New Orleans, so we really have more smaller bodies of water—bayous and canals—that swell as that water comes in from a storm surge. That’s what we really deal with more. So we don’t have levees.

AMY GOODMAN: Their big concern in New Orleans was—right, was the levees and whether the new levees would hold. What’s your assessment of what happened?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Oh, it’s a brand-new New Orleans. It’s a—the levee system is great. I’ve had the chance to drive around for the last couple of years and see the work that’s been done. It’s just a lot of work. The corps has done a fantastic job. So, there’s not—I don’t think New Orleans has a whole lot to worry about, like we did in the past.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say it’s fair to say the government saved New Orleans?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: That’s a nice try. I’d say the people of New Orleans saved New Orleans, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Who paid for the rebuilding of the levee?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: That’s a good question. I don’t know. Who paid for it?

AMY GOODMAN: The Army Corps of Engineers did it, right?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: I think the people of New Orleans paid for it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, everyone, right?


AMY GOODMAN: And also, that you just said the Army Corps of Engineers did a fantastic job.

JONATHAN JOHNSON: That’s correct. They did.

AMY GOODMAN: The government.

JONATHAN JOHNSON: The people of New Orleans, along with the Corps of Engineers, did a great job, yeah. That’s a good try. I like that. I appreciate that.

AMY GOODMAN: But, I mean, it sounds like you are congratulating the government in this case. That’s what the Army Corps of Engineers is.

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Well, sure, yeah, I am. Yeah, government’s not a bad thing. They did a good job, sure, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So would you say that kind of government-and-people partnership is important, and it’s the role of government, is to be—to do that kind of work in these very crisis situations?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Yeah, government in their proper role, yes, absolutely, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, yesterday, the theme was “We Built It.” And what is the explanation of that slogan, “We Built It”?

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Oh, well, if you’re going to stray real far from my personal situation, I’m not going to dive real deep into that. But, yeah, I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. Individual Americans build their own businesses. I think that’s what that slogan really focuses on.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, back to the case of Louisiana and New Orleans. The people built their small businesses, and with the help of government protecting them now—for example, with the rebuilding of the levees that you said was very, very important—together, that is what makes America.

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Yeah, government has a limited role in our lives, yes. We have to have government, but as a very limited role. And we—of course, we respect that and appreciate that, within the boundaries of what they’re supposed to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Johnson, an at-large Republican delegate from the city of Slidell, just outside of New Orleans.

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