As John McQuaid says, there are no meaningful comparisons between what’s happening in Haiti and how the Bush Administration screwed up on Katrina, unless you reduce both events to nothing more than political theater.
As has been bewailed constantly in the liberal blogworld (see this post by Glenn Greenwald for a recent example), to the insiders in the Washington Press Corps, politics is just a game---and a game Democrats can’t win even when they don’t lose and Republicans can’t lose even though they keep getting beaten time and time again---with nothing at stake but which team scores the most political points.
Scoring is kept my the insiders themselves without regard to polls, election results---when those results favor Democrats---history, or even obvious facts.
This is why and how Howard Fineman, an Insider’s Insider, can write an “analysis” that deals with the devastation in New Orleans five years ago and in Haiti this week as matters of perception.
As Fineman sees it, the problem in New Orleans wasn’t that the city drowned because of the Bush Leaguers’ incompetence and negligence. The problem was that voters blamed George Bush.
So the problem for President Obama isn’t to coordinate US aid to Haiti but that he avoid being blamed for that aid not doing a good enough job once it gets there.
Of course it’s Fineman and his colleagues who get to decide how good a job the President does and, since there’s no evidence that Americans who are desperately praying for the people of Haiti and donating their money and volunteering to go down and help are thinking about what the President’s doing even in passing, it will be up to Fineman and his colleagues to place the blame.
Fineman’s “analysis” is a trivial and heartless exercise in self-importance on his part, of course, but that’s his job as an Insider. You have to wonder, though, why he felt he had to do that job now while the horror is still unfolding.
I can’t help thinking that part of his motivation is the chance that’s opened up to flatter Republicans, once again by suggesting that even though something terrible happened on their watch it wasn’t caused by their policies.
Seen as merely part of the game, all that Bush did wrong five years ago---and remember, he was busy delivering birthday cakes and playing air guitar during the worst of it---was fail to score enough points.
And Fineman can further flatter Republicans by suggesting that Barack Obama might make exactly the same mistake, he’ll fail to score enough points, which would mean that Obama is just as big a screw-up as George Bush was.
Which brings me to another feature of the Insiders’ coverage of the game.
The possibility of a Republican “win” or a Democratic “loss” is always more real and worth more attention than any actual outcomes.
Republicans score points just by getting the Insiders to predict that they might score points.
Meanwhile, in Haiti, tens and tens of thousands of people have died, many more are dying under the rubble, and many more are likely to die from outbreaks of disease or inadequate treatment of their injuries---the quake didn’t spare hospitals or doctors and nurses.
This is a press conference held by Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday. I doubt things have gotten a whole lot better in a day and a half.