Americans have a habit of talking about politics as something apart from the normal doings of our lives. Kind of strange of us, considering that the normal doings of our lives are only possible because of politics. Turning on the tap to get a drink of water is a political act if only because the water flows and is relatively clean because of decisions made by politicians who owe their jobs to political decisions made by us.
Want to see what life without politics looks like? Turn on the TV and look at the video from New Orleans before the Guard got there.
The devastation caused by the storm was the least of Louisiana and Mississippi's troubles. All the rest of it is a result of a failure of political leadership, from the President on down to the local mayors---political leadership disappeared. Politics stopped.
Anarchy---the opposite of politics---took over.
Anyone saying that now is not the time to play politics, now is not the time to look for people to blame is either consciously or unconciously helping to shield politicians from responsibility for their failures. You can't criticize a political leader without it being a political act. Tell me that no political leaders here deserve criticism.
What's more, it's not a case that they failed. They are continuing to fail.
Now they are failing in Texas as well as in Louisiana and Mississippi. Do the Feds plan to let the cities of Houston and Dallas and San Antonio become permanent refugee camps?
FEMA director Michael Brown is not up to the job. He needs to be fired and replaced, now.
The President has no clue. He needs to find someone who can handle the job of rescue and recovery. Now.
These are political statements. They are also true. Nobody should refrain from telling the truth because the truth might have some politics attached.
But more than the failures being political failures; they are moral failures, as well.
The failure of the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans to get more people out and stock, equip, and staff emergency shelters before Katrina hit was a moral as well as a political failure. The people we put in office have a moral obligation to protect and to serve. A politician who does not do a competent job of at least trying is as criminally negligent as a surgeon who shows up drunk for an operation.
Sen. Mary Landreiu going on television to thank Federal leaders while they were in the middle of letting the biggest city in her state drown wasn't just politically blockheaded, it was immoral. It's immoral because she was reflexively being a purely political animal, trying to ingratiate herself with the Republicans to advance her own career in Washington, when she should have been standing up to give voice to the anger and heartbreak of her fellow Lousianians.
(Update: Senator Landrieu has found her anger. See the Times-Picayune's hurricane blog.)
Bush's lazy and half-hearted attention during the first days of the disaster was a moral failure.
His having nothing to say to people who'd lost everything except that they should go to the Salvation Army for help was a moral failure. His jokey maundering about Trent Lott's having lost his house, revealing that the only people he can truly sympathize with are rich white guys like himself, is a moral failure.
In a week when regular Americans, reeling from the ever increasing price of gas and struggling to find the money to fill their tanks so they can go to work, opened their wallets immediately to help their brothers and sisters in New Orleans and Biloxi, Condoleeza Rice going on a shopping spree to spend thousands of dollars on shoes was a moral failure.
Denny Hastert watching people struggling for their lives on the rooftops of their flooded homes and having nothing to say about it but that those houses should be bulldozed was a moral failure.
His initial refusal to call Congress back from its vacation and his only agreeing to do it after Nancy Pelosi embarrassed him into it was a moral failure compounded.
The raving calls from Right Wing bloggers for shooting the looters on sight and worrying more about stolen television sets than about the people in the Superdome wading through their own shit to stand in line to get MREs for their hungry children---well, I don't know how you can begin to qualify the moral failures of people who have no other morality but loyalty to George W. Bush.
The same for the Right Wing Media blowhards who are trying to distract Americans from holding President Bush responsible. Letting Bush off the hook for this one lets him off the hook for the next one. If he is not held accountable for his failures this time, he will not change anything before the next time. But then these are people who have never understood that sometimes criticizing a politician is an act of loyalty to that politician. If they had been critical of Bush's screw-ups in Iraq, Bush may have been forced into actually coming up with a workable plan for the War. If they criticize him now, they may be able to convince him that he needs to get serious about defending the homeland. They are the ones who actually boast of their fear of another terrorist attack on the level of 9/11. It is a moral failure on their part to let their President slide on this one.
And Democrats who are not standing up to express their outrage at all these moral failures because they are afraid of appearing to be playing politics are failing their own contituents politically and morally.
If white Democrats don't start speaking up soon, if they leave it solely or mainly to their black colleagues to voice the necessary moral outrage, they will show themselves up as cowards and be guilty of the biggest moral failure of them all.
Steve Gilliard is irritable on a good day. The Katrina Disaster and the ongoing moral and political failures of George Bush and company have driven him to a fury that is Biblical not just in its onrush of eloquence but in its moral outrage. There are too many good posts to single any one out and I doubt Steve's anywheres near done. So just go to The News Blog now.
I can't remember if it was Steve himself or one of his commenters or someone he linked to, but whoever did it has done us all a big favor by re-christening our would-be Carrie Bradshaw Secretary of State "Imelda Rice."
At the American Prospect, Jeff Dubner compares George Bush's longing for the day when he can sit on Trent Lott's rebuilt front porch to Michael Dukakis's cool as a machine reply to the infamous rape question in the 88 Presidential debates and Matt Yglesias makes the case---yeah, he's scoring political points, shame on him---that Katrina and her aftermath should remind us why Americans, Conservatives and Libertarians as well as Liberals, have chosen to have a Liberal government.
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