Memory is a tricky thing and I can understand how three and a half years later Bobby Jindal might "remember" being in room while the sheriff was on the phone yelling about how the bureaucrats were getting in the way of helping people in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
What doesn't make sense is why he was telling that story at all. Why would any Republican want to bring up Katrina?
You don't need me to tell you what a disaster Jindal's response to the President's speech the other night was, both for Jindal personally as a potential Presidential candidate and for the Republican party. But for me Jindal's speech brought back the question, Are they evil or are they stupid?
I think that's a chicken and the egg question. They are evil and pursue selfish goals of increasing their personal power and money instead of doing the smart and right things and so they do and say stupid things. They do stupid things instead of doing the smart and right things and the result is pain and sorrow and death.
Bringing up Katrina seems like a stupid move. Why remind the American people of the reason they turned almost all together and at once against George Bush?
Do Jindal and the officials from the commissariat who approved his speech think we're so dumb we've forgotten just which Party was running the government when Katrina hit? Or are they so dumb they don't understand why "Heckuva job, Brownie" has become a catchphrase for summing up Republican malfeasance, corruption, and incompetence, ranking right up there with "I am not a crook" and "Are you now or have you ever been?" and "Mission Accomplished"?
Whichever it is, the important point here is that Jindal went on television to promote another Republican Big Lie. I'm not talking about whether or not he actually overheard the sheriff. The Big Lie was, and I expect for the next hundred years, if the Republican Party survives that long, will be that what happened in New Orleans in the late summer of 2005 was the Liberals' fault!
New Orleans didn't drown because our feckless Republican President chose to play air guitar and attend birthday parties while people died, leaving what passed for rescuing the city in the hands of incompetent and heartless flunkies. New Orleans drowned because the people there relied on the Government to help them and we all know that the Government is a liberal entity even when it is controlled by conservatives.
In short, it doesn't matter that the President at the time was a Republican or that both Houses of Congress were in the hands of Republicans. They weren't in charge.
That being the case, Republicans are irrelevant to the story. There was a hurricane and the Government failed the people of New Orleans by trying to help them.
The Government was, and the Government is Liberal and therefore Evil.
As fast as they can the Republicans are erasing the Presidency of George W. Bush from their official history, just as they've pretty much written Richard Nixon out of it and written out Republican isolationism and pro-fascist sentiment in the years leading up to World War II. They still aren't sure what to do with Joe McCarthy. They'd probably like to make him a non-person too but that darn Ann Coulter is so cute when she talks about what a hero Tail-gunner Joe was you just have to think she has a point.
For going on seventy years the National Republican Party has consoled itself, sustained itself, and kept itself alive by telling itself and anyone who will listen an alternative history of the United States. In this alternative history the New Deal didn't do any good at all, the Cold War was fought and won entirely by super-patriotic Republicans, welfare not racism or systemic poverty destroyed the African-American family, anyway racism ended when Martin Luther King's birthday became a national holiday (alternative to the alternative: racism ended with the election of Barack Obama), the 1960s are the root of all evil, the hippies and the liberals lost the War in Vietnam, 9/11 was Bill Clinton's fault, the financial crisis was Bill Clinton's fault, Barack Obama is turning America into a socialist dictatorship.
The Republican Party shouldn't need to tell these lies. After all, it's the party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Republican Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and mayors---Fiorello LaGuardia was a Republican---have done good and great things for the United States. But, thanks to Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt, the party lost a good chunk of its Progressives. Then thanks to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan it lost the rest. The Party was taken over by the most retrograde and selfish members of its Big Business wing, which is to say by its would-be aristocrats who had to make common cause with Right Wing extremists, religious fundamentalists, and Southern racists in order to put together enough votes to win elections. These groups had and have only one thing in common, a belief that they are the only rightful inhabitants of America and inheritors of its blessings and that everybody else is out to take away their privileges and wealth. They are the people who self-identify as conservative, although there is nothing they want to conserve. They are reactionaries who want to turn back time to a mythical golden age in which they ran things to their liking without any complaint or criticism from "the others." And as reactionaries, as people at war with progress and enlightenment, they have been on the wrong side of history since the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord. They need there to have been an alternative history of the United States in order for there to be a history in which they are not the villains and losers.
They need a history in which they would not have supported King George's right to treat the Colonies however he wished, a history in which they would not have defended slavery, a history in which they would not have pursued their own selfish business interests at the expense of the nation's interests and caused the Great Depression, in which they would not have argued that Hitler and Mussolini were doing some great things and maybe we could use some of their efficiency here, a history in which they would not have been cheering for a drunken demagogue as he terrified the nation and ruined countless lives with his lies, a history in which they would not have opposed the Civil Rights movement, a history in which they did not vote for a feckless and incompetent swaggering bully for President and cheer him on as he bankrupted the treasury, took us to war unnecessarily and then lost the war, let Osama bin-Laden get away, broke the Government's regulatory system, allowed the banksters to loot and wreck the country, and, incidentally, played air guitar and went to birthday parties while a great American city sank into the poisoned water and people died waiting for him to help.
They need an American history in which their selfishness and resentments are justified and in which they, as the inheritors of an anti-democratic philosophy of government and economics that preaches that the single-minded pursuit of individual power and wealth leads to heaven on earth, are the true heirs of Washington and Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
They need an alternative history in which being angry, selfish, resentful, greedy, and defensive of nothing but their own right to be angry, selfish, resentful, and greedy is the definition of patriotism and in which instead of standing in the way of progress it's the way to bring it about.
They need an alternative history in which acting as though the equation whatever I want = what's best for America is true is not like insisting 2 + 2= 5.
They need this alternative history to hide the truth about themselves from themselves and from potential critics and potential recruits to the Party.
Everything the Republicans have been doing and saying since November they've done and said to keep up their own morale and to rile up the Party faithful. They don't have any plans except to hold onto as many seats in Congress as they can in 2010 and hope that either the country falls into chaos and despair and the people turn on President Obama or that good times return soon enough that by 2012 people will have forgotten who brought about the bad times. In the meantime, though, they have to hold their Party together anyway they can, and they are simply going with what has worked in the past, lying.
Because they have been wrong about everything.
So they sent Bobby Jindal out to tell the Big Lie again. Jindal delivered the Republican alternative history, adding a new chapter in which what happened in New Orleans was the Government's not George Bush and the Republicans' fault.
Do they think we're stupid or are they so stupid they fall for their own lies?
Either way, what Jindal really did the other night was go before the American people and promise that the next time the Republicans get control of the government they will do they same stupid and evil things they did the last time.
They will let the nation drown and rot the way they let New Orleans drown and rot and then blame it on the Liberals.