A thing to remember about Right Wingers when they start smearing Democrats, Liberals, feminists, environmentalists, journalists, and, oh, widows and orphans, the sick, the poor, and the helpless, anybody and everybody they hate, is that whatever they accuse their enemies of doing they’re doing it themselves.
A J’accuse! from the Right is synonymous with an “I confess!”
I noticed this during the Impeachment Crisis when, one after another, Republicans who were trying to run Bill Clinton out of office for having fooled around on his wife were revealed to be serial adulterers, orgy guys, fetishists of the kinkiest tastes, and, in one case, essentially a high-priced call girl.
Before these “youthful indiscretions” of men and women well into middle-age came to light, I had thought that Republicans were obsessed with the sex lives of Democrats like Bill Clinton and the Kennedys because they had no sex lives of their own.
Shows what I knew.
Events then and events since have proved that Republicans get a lot of sex. A lot of sex.
Doesn’t seem to make them happy. Which is probably why they get so mad when they find out other people are having a good time in bed. Republicans can’t seem to do it without making it dirty in some way. Someone once asked Woody Allen, “Is sex dirty?” and Allen said, “It is if you do it right.” But Republicans don’t have dirty sex that’s dirty the way Allen meant. They dirty it up with money, with guilt, with weirdnesses, and with stunningly arrogant hypocrisy.
And by setting out to ruin the fun for the rest of us.
I’m not saying Democrats and liberals are saints. (Cough John Edwards cough.) But we don’t make a fetish out of pretending that we are, nor we do put people like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich out there to lecture on morality and virtue, nor do we set out to vilify and punish people whose sex lives seem happier and healthier than our own.
So, since 1998 I’ve lost count of the number of Family Value promoting Republicans who’ve turned out to be adulterers, sexual deviants, inverts, perverts, harassers, molesters, wide-stancers, Appalachian Trail hikers, diaper babies, and cads and creeps of all kinds.
My rule has been if they’re railing about the supposed sexual sins of others, then they’ve just paid the driver to take their mistress home---or in the case of John Ensign paid off her husband to keep his mouth shut.
If they’re railing against gay sex, they’ve just paid off the rent boy.
But it’s not just sex.
If they rail about corruption, they have both arms in the till up to the elbows.
If they rail about liberals being anti-military, they’re about to propose a cut in veteran’s benefits or soldiers’ pay.
If they rail about earmarks, you’ll need both hands and one foot to tally up their friends and relatives whose businesses depend on government contracts.
If they rail about welfare cheats, they’ve spent their lives on the Conservative dole or---in the case of Tea Party types---they’re collecting unemployment, disability, or Social Security. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the selfishness and the hypocrisy and the push to deny others the help they take for granted for themselves that are evils.
If when pushing for war and more war they call opponents and dissenters cowards and traitors, they not only have never served in the military themselves, they will tell you that they better serve the country from behind a desk or at a keyboard safe at home.
And if they accuse Democrats and Liberals of wanting to see America fail…
Michael Brown, George Bush’s criminally incompetent head of FEMA during Katrina, the guy who went out to dinner and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine while New Orleans went under, went on TV the other day and said this about President Obama’s response to the oil rig disaster in the Gulf:
"This is exactly what they want, because now [Obama] can pander to the environmentalists and say, 'I'm gonna shut it down because it's too dangerous.'"
As if that isn’t clear, what he said was that President Obama wants the beaches from Louisiana to Florida and around and on up to Georgia and the Carolinas coated with oil and all the fishermen working those waters put out of business and the marine life and wildlife dead so he can push his anti-business, pro-socialist, hippy dippy environmentalist agenda.
Brown accused the President of wanting to poison a large chunk of the United States to get cap and trade.
Of course he should have immediately been asked, “Is that why you let New Orleans drown, to prove Big Government can’t solve problems?”
Or “Do you think that’s why an qualified screw-up like you was put in charge of FEMA in the first place, so that there was no way your agency could solve any problems?”
Or, possibly more to the point, “Still feeling guilty about all those people you let die, Mike? Figure if you can get people to think President Obama is doing a poor job in the Gulf they might forget what a historically and horrifically miserable job you did in the Big Easy?”
But he was on Fox News, so he wasn’t asked.
And, at any rate, because he was on Fox News, he wasn’t there to talk about himself or for himself. He was there to help the Republican Party---for which Fox News has become Campaign Central---push its favorite theme: President Obama is out to ruin the country.
In other words, Obama and the Democrats want America to fail.
And only the Republicans can save us!
This would be laughable if it weren’t such a threat not only to the nation’s well-being but to democratic government.
Because it’s Right Wing Republicans who want America to fail.
This isn’t even another routine case of projection.
They flat out admit it.
Called on it, they’ll lie, of course. “We never said any such thing.” Showed that they have said such things and worse, they’ll dodge. “We want Obama to fail because we believe his success will be the ruin of our country.”
And they mean “our” as in their country.
Rooting for the President to fail means rooting for the economy to continue to stink and stink worse. It means rooting for more people to lose their jobs and go broke and lose their homes and for their families to break up and for their kids not to be able to go to the doctor when they’re sick and for their schools to shut and their future prospects to vanish like breath.
Rooting for the President means rooting for us to lose the war in Afghanistan and re-lose the war in Iraq.
Rooting for the President to fail means wishing that car bomb had gone off in Times Square, wishing the underpants bomber had set fire to more on that plane than just his shorts, wishing that some Islamofascist succeeds in putting another crater in New York or Washington or Chicago or any other blue city where they don’t plan to be when it happens.
Oh, and rooting for the President to fail means rooting for every pelican and crawfish and maybe a few people living in the Gulf sicken and die. Ok, maybe only rooting for the people to get sick. But it definitely means rooting that what happens in the Gulf turns out to be worse than what they did to New Orleans and nearly 2000 people died there.
Rooting for the President to fail means rooting for America to fail.
I don’t know about you but I wanted George Bush to win the war on terra. I wanted him to save New Orleans. I wanted him to get his immigration reform bill passed. I believed his policies wouldn’t work, but I desperately hoped they would and I didn’t care if that meant another twenty years of Republicans in the White House.
But that wasn’t going to happen, because the Republicans wanted their own President to fail. They want their own supposed policies to fail.
The awful, terrible, terrifying, loathsome thing is that don’t want President Obama and the Democrats to fail, and with them the nation, so that they can get back into power to do what they think is better for the country.
They want them to fail so that they can get back into power in order to be back in power.
They don’t want to do anything for the country except to make it more their country. They want power only to protect and expand their wealth and their status. They want power for power’s sake to use it against anyone they believe is threatening their wealth and their status and their control of the country and their sense that it is their country.
This is what they’re up to as they actively work to cause the President to fail.
Over at Open Left, Paul Rosenberg asks:
In what universe does it make sense for a party to seek political power on the open and avowed basis of preventing others from fixing dire problems? Not just refusing to help solve problems, mind you. That would be irresponsible enough. But actively working to block any solutions whatsoever? In what universe does that make sense?
And then he answers himself:
That is not a rhetorical question. Because the answer, obviously, is "ours."
He follows that up with another question:
But why is our universe the way it is?
His post is an attempt to explain why and it has to do with conservatives never having had in the United States what conservatives everywhere and in all eras have always wanted and which they enjoy in plenty of other countries---one hundred per cent control of everything.
“Conservatives,” he says, “believe they should rule the world.” American conservatives believe they should rule the United States. Rule not govern, not run, not manage. Rule. And because our democracy, flawed as it is, hasn’t let them rule the country, not, says Rosenberg, “in the virtually uncontested way they have ruled other countries,” they have always hated our democracy and looked for ways to undermine and destroy it.
American conservatism has always been fundamentally seditious in a way that no other brand of conservatism in the world has been.
Read the whole post, America’s delusional politics.
Meanwhile, given the way our universe has been operating, given what the American Right wants, and given their habits of projection and of accusing the Left of wanting to do what they themselves are in fact doing while making the accusation, Michael Brown should have been asked and made to answer:
Was that what was going on in New Orleans? Was that why you were in charge? To discredit the Federal Government? To make people believe that their own government couldn’t help them in times of trouble and crisis? To convince them never to trust any even mildly Progressive politician promising to make government work for them so that they will vote for the Party that will put an end to government doing anything except protect the wealth and status and power of conservatives?
Was that your job, Michael? Was that what your bosses wanted you to do? Fail? Were you hired to be the screw-up you proved to be? Were you expected to let a city drown? Were you expected to let whole neighborhoods sink so that thousands and thousands of poor people would be left permanently homeless to punish them for voting Democratic and teach them not to do it again? Were you expected to let people die?
Heckuva job, Brownie.
Any journalist or pundit who uses any variant on the phrase “The oil rig disaster in the Gulf” coupled in any way with any implication that the disaster is, could be, might have been, or still might be “Obama’s Katrina” without also using words like “Superdome,” “bodies floating,” “old and sick left to drown,” “cattle pens,” and “air guitar” should follow up with words that pretty much say, “I resign as of the next commercial break or early deadline because I am morally and intellectually bankrupt.”
This one doesn’t seem to be catching on, I hope because it’s so obviously wrong-headed that no one with two brain cells to rub together or half a heart could take it seriously, but it’s out there. Serious journalistic types, not just Right Wing propagandists, have been wondering if what’s happening in the Gulf is President Obama’s Katrina.
To even raise the question as if it doesn’t answer itself with a resounding NO is to reveal a shocking misunderstanding of what made Hurricane Katrina George Bush’s Katrina.
It wasn’t just that Bush neglected the levees beforehand despite continual warnings that they were in perilous shape and that when Katrina had built to the point where it was clear that it was going to be one of the most ferocious hurricanes in the Gulf in decades and was heading for land he made no moves towards helping the states in Katrina’s path get ready.
It wasn’t just that after Katrina struck and the levees broke and large swaths of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and almost all of New Orleans were underwater Bush’s Homeland Security team was appallingly slow to take any action---they did not exactly rush to the rescue. Private citizens speeding in from faraway states in vans loaded with bottled water and other desperately needed supplies got into New Orleans ahead of Federal reinforcements.
And it wasn’t that he didn’t get the cleanup, repair, and recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans underway immediately.
(For as much as his Administration actually helped afterwards, it can be argued that he never really did get it underway; three and a half years later, when he left office, New Orleans was still in shambles. Meanwhile Mississippi, with its Republican governor, got attention and money stat.)
It was that Bush himself didn’t seem to care!
Bush’s Katrina was a moral failure.
While the worst was happening, while people were drowning, while people were dying from causes that could have been treated if they could have gotten to the hospital, while hospitals were deciding which of their patients they would have to leave behind to die, while people were clinging to the rooftops of their sunken homes waving for help that was not on its way, while people were being herded into what were essentially cages to keep them from leaving the city and left to broil there while bureaucrats tried to figure out what to do with them, while thousands and thousands of Americans were being left to swelter and suffer and sicken and die in filth without adequate supplies of water or food, Bush was to be seen on television playing air guitar.
This is true. He was on TV accepting the gift of a guitar he could only pretend to play and that’s what he did. There he was, looking like some teenager in his parents’ basement perfecting his moves for when he fronted the band he would form once he learned how to play.
And then the next we saw him he was out in Arizona delivering a birthday cake to John McCain.
It was as if he didn’t even know what was going on.
When he finally did start paying attention his first act was to stage a blatant photo op aboard Air Force One during a brief flyover above New Orleans. It was meant to remind people of the photo of him aboard Air Force One looking down on the smoldering wreckage of the Pentagon on 9/11.
What it did was make people wonder if that had just been a photo op too and if Bush had been just as disengaged then as he clearly was now.
And when at last he bothered to set foot on the ground down there it wasn’t to fire his criminally incompetent head of FEMA. It was to congratulate him on doing a “heckvua job.”
Then he went over to see Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and gave a little speech that implied that Bush himself would consider the disaster dealt with when the millionaire Lott’s mansion was rebuilt apparently, for all Bush made any distinction, with the same Federal help and money that was supposed to help not rich people who had been wiped out of everything.
Bush had shown himself up to be incompetent, that’s true.
But if the comparison between his handling of Katrina and Obama’s handling of the Gulf disaster hinges on whether or not Obama proves he is getting the problem under control and then goes on to fix everything, besides ignoring that this was BP’s fault, it reduces things to a debate over managerial skill, style, and decisions.
As I said, Katrina was not simply a failure of management. It was a moral failure.
What was astounding was that as a moral test it should have been easy to pass.
But what was absolutely damning for Bush was that it woke people up to his even greater moral failure---the war in Iraq.
Which, as if we only found this out in the late summer of 2005, two and a half years into the war, was also a spectacular managerial failure.
So far President Obama and his administration appear to be passing the managerial test. It’ll be a while before we know how well they scored. But there’s a limit to what they can do. Fishermen are already ruined and oil is washing ashore and oozing inshore.
But clearly he passed the moral test with flying colors right from the start.
Not that he should get much credit for that.
Taking care of the welfare of Americans during crises is what Presidents are supposed to do as a matter of course.
The only reason not to take it for granted is that Bush failed so horrifically.
That moral failure is what makes Katrina Bush’s Katrina.
That moral failure defines it and defines it to the point that the only way the Gulf disaster could be to Obama what Katrina was to Bush is if the President had pulled the Coast Guard out of there immediately and said, “What’s a few pelicans? Let the states deal with it, I’m taking the family to Disneyland!”
Since he did nothing remotely like that and in fact passed the moral test within seconds there was no comparison between him and Bush here. It was instantly not Obama’s Katrina.
So why was it even brought up?
Well, because the Right Wing Noise Machine brought it up.
We know the Right and its propagandists and apologists will say anything to smear and discredit Democrats and the Left and to hide and deny their own failures, crimes, and sins.
And we know how for the a decade and a half they managed to insinuate their lies and smears into the political debate and got the National Press Corps to “report” those lies and smears as if, not always facts, then as legitimate and credible points of view.
But why does the Media still fall for it? Why do they play along? Especially after Iraq and Katrina?
Because it’s easier than pushing back. Because they’re fat and lazy and that’s made them stupid. Because their thinking is facile and fatuous while their self-opinion is as high as a Greek god’s and they accept what ever trivial half-baked idea pops into their heads as a revelation unto genius.
Because it’s more important to them to be able to congratulate themselves on their lack of a liberal bias than to report the facts as facts.
Because they are corrupted by money, by celebrity, by vanity, and by cowardice.
What it gets down to is that the phrase “Obama’s Katrina,” even if said in order to show that this isn’t Obama’s Katrina, is another sign of the Beltway Insiders’ ongoing moral failure.
The Washington Post’s Michael Shear lays it out blunt and clear, although it’s frustrating that he has to:
The gulf oil spill is no Katrina, in which 1,836 people died amid the near total devastation of one of America's great cities…
Good for Shear, but his analysis is still maddening because he treats both disasters as simply problems of management:
Unlike Katrina, there has been no obvious failures of government, no images to compare to the Superdome or the flooded streets of St. Bernard Parish. And unlike Katrina, there is an easy target for blame in the current oil spill: the oil giant BP, which by law is the "responsible party" and must pay for all of the costs of the cleanup.
And even worse, he presents Bush’s failure as being foremost a political failure and President Obama’s main task being the containment of any political damage:
As President Obama prepares for a Sunday morning visit to the gulf coastline, where a massive oil spill threatens environmental devastation, his administration faces the politically tricky task of appearing in control of the response while avoiding the blame.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 proved how debilitating a disaster can be for a presidency if the public perceives that the administration did too little -- either before the incident or after -- to protect people, the environment or the economy.
Let’s not bother with finding out if the President actually failed to do his job. Let’s look at how well he appeared to be doing it and how successfully he avoided blame. Let’s examine how he was perceived, a purely subjective call that we the Insiders are the only ones qualified to make.
Well, it is the Post, one of the Insiders’ club newsletters, and that’s what it’s all about for the Insiders. Perception and political gamesmanship.
Those 1,836 people who died in 2005?
They just didn’t play well in the polls.
Hat tip to Steve Benen.
Related Mannion re-run from 2005: It’s not political; it’s moral!
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.
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.
Watson's got a good point.
The Democrats should be running hard with this one.
Hurricane Katrina and the drowning of New Orleans marked the end of the Bush Presidency. More than the failures in Iraq, the President's rushing off in the opposite direction from the disaster areas to play air guitar while one of the great American cities disappeared and giant swaths of the coastal south sank from view opened the nation's eyes to the Bush Administration's incompetence, fecklessness, and sociopathic disinterest in the lives, and deaths, of average Americans.
The Democrats don't need to harp on Bush's personal failure at the end of the summer of 2005, but they can and should be promising to end the continued failure of the government to rebuild the city and other devastated areas and bring people home by giving them something worth coming home to.
If there is one thing Democrats have proven over the last 70 odd years that they can do better than Republicans, besides balance budgets, protect the environment, see that basic goods and services are delivered, encourage economic growth, and resist politicizing the criminal justice system, it's build things.
They can also point out that a major reason state and local response to the disaster was so inadequate is that large numbers of National Guardsmen and their unit's equipment were over in Iraq.
Kansas is now having the same problem.
I'll be leaving this up here for the rest of the week. Scroll down for the new posts.
The Red Cross has a page devoted to the earthquake. You can donate right there.
Doctors Without Borders hasn't updated its site to focus specifically on the quake, but they're on the scene, having worked in Indonesia for almost a decade now. Here's their Indonesia page.
Anybody who has links to other ways to help, please leave them in the comments.
Do what you can.
At first glance, I thought, Some people just have no clue.
The you would think disgraced ex-head of FEMA, Michael Brown, whose chief worry as New Orleans drowned in the aftermath of Katrina was where he was going to eat dinner in Baton Rouge---the restaurants there were just so crowded!---has decided to go into business for himself as a consultant on disaster planning.
"If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses — because that goes straight to the bottom line — then I hope I can help the country in some way," Brown told the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.
Brown said officials need to "take inventory" of what's going on in a disaster to be able to answer questions to avoid appearing unaware of how serious a situation is.
I thought, this is like Custer setting up as an expert in White-Indian relations.
Marie Antoinette going into social work.
James Dobson offering advice on child rearing.
I announced Brown's plans to the assembled Blondes and Mannions at the breakfast table this morning and got a big laugh. Everybody thought I was joking.
Brown is oblivious enough, pompous enough, and vain enough not to see the ridiculousness of offering his "expertise" in disaster planning. At the Congressional hearings looking into how to whitewash George Bush's incompetence---I mean, looking into what caused the disasterous non-relief efforts in the aftermath of Katrina, Brown managed to give the impression that he thought the chief victim of Katrina was Michael Brown.
Even now he can't talk about Katrina and his failures without a mixture of bragging and self-pity, as if he still can't get over how mean people were to him. Just what did they expect?
Brown said companies already have expressed interested in his consulting business, Michael D. Brown LLC. He plans to run it from the Boulder area, where he lived before joining the Bush administration in 2001.
"I'm doing a lot of good work with some great clients," Brown said. "My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me."
What a clown, I thought with a sneer.
But then I remembered that although they made a big show of firing Brown the Bush Leaguers never actually fired him. All they did was change his job title to "consultant" and give him a new, out of the way office. Their object wasn't to punish an incompetent and keep him from causing any more trouble. It was to find a safe place to hide a loyal minion from the Media so that the President wouldn't be embarrassed anymore by Brown's face on the evening news.
These people do not fire anyone for screwing up. They especially don't fire anyone who was doing the job they were hired to do. As head of FEMA, Brown's real job was bagman.
In the wake of disasters he showed up with a checkbook and wrote checks to everyone and anyone who came to them with their hand out, buying loyalty, votes, and favors for George W. Bush.
(As Joe Gandelman reported, Brown finally got off the federal gravy train a couple weeks ago.)
It's no wonder he sat still during Katrina's approach and the first few days after the hurricane hit. In his mind his job wasn't set to begin until after the winds died and the profiteers began lining up for their payoffs. He probably spent those days practicing signing his signature.
I'm sure Brown's first client will be some proxy for the Bush Administration. After that, companies looking for access and favors from the Bush Leaguers and the Republican Congress will line up outside his door, their briefcases full of bundles of cash.
From this morning's Times Herald-Record.
Middletown – As desperate rescuers comb through flattened villages and devastated cities laid to waste by Saturday's killer quake in Pakistan, the images of horror hit home for many here in the Hudson Valley.
For some, like Hussan Din of Scotchtown, those images strike like a spear through the heart.
Hussan lost at least 26 members of his immediate family in the quake, all killed in his home village of Prim Koot, in Azad Kashmir.
He lost his bother-in-law, his sister-in-law, all of their children and much of their extended families.
Hussan said the quake completely flattened his mountain village, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless.
Most of those killed were children, Hussan said.
"There is nothing," Hussan said. "They have no blankets, they have no food. Many roads are destroyed, and nobody can reach them to help."
Hussan and dozens of Muslim members of the Middletown Islamic Center, celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, gathered last night to pray, to reflect and to support one another in the wake of the disastrous quake.
"We have been reaching out to each other, praying and collecting money to help," said the center's president, Dr. Quazi Al-Tariq. "Nothing like this has happened in a hundred years. It's absolutely horrible.
Most of the center's members are from Pakistan and have family there. None, though, was as hard hit as Hussan.
Hussan last visited his family in 2002. Wednesday, he'll be heading home again to try to pick up the pieces.
So far, Hussan said, Prim Koot has seen no help at all from Pakistan's government. Hussan said he'll help in any way he can, even if that means digging through rubble with his bare hands.
"I'm going to go there and try to help my family and the other villagers as well," he said.
The Middletown Islamic Center is collecting donations that will be given directly to the Pakistani government's quake relief effort. Donations can be mailed to the center at 169 Ryerson Road, New Hampton, NY 10958.
Story by Dave Richardson.
Here's a report on the quake from the Red Cross.
At one point, Right Wing pundits and Congressional apologists for George Bush, desperate to protect the President from having to take responsibility for his own failures, tried to blame the disaster in New Orleans on poor people.
The problem was, they said, that those darn poor people didn't have the sense to get rich enough ahead of time to afford cars so they could flee the city. Poverty being always only the result of bad character, the poor of New Orleans suffered from their own bad character as much as from the hurricane and more than from the Bush Leaguers' incompetence, inaction, and carelessness.
This apparently didn't play so well. Even if you buy the argument that most poor people are poor simply because they are too lazy to be anything else, leaving children, old people, sick people, and the occasional tourist to swim for it just because they had the bad luck to be related to deadbeat dads and welfare queens probably struck even the most Scrooge-like of conservatives as, well, too Scrooge-like.
The plan now seems to be to go back to blaming the local Democratic officials, like Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, and if that doesn't work, spread the blame so widely that only a little of it butters George Bush.
But this frustrates some of the true believers who just can't bear to let the poor off the hook. The ever-ingenious Rich Lowry of the National Review has found a way to blame the poor indirectly. He blames Liberal social programs for keeping the poor poor.
I'm surprised no one thought of it before this. It's another old song from the Republican repertoire. The poor are poor because of their own bad character, goes the chorus, of course, but the verse is like this: Liberal government programs encourage, foster, and make virtues out of the vices that keep the poor poor. You know, because not letting their children starve, not leaving them to attend rotten schools, not letting the old and young die of treatable diseases, not forcing them to live in squalid housing, all that just makes them lazy and dependent and (shhhh) shiftless.
At this point, a good small-government conservative who knows his hymn book will sing out that after all these years of Liberal social programs, poor children still go hungry, their schools are still rotten, the young and old still have no reliable medical care, and their homes are often squalid, no better than shacks in some places, lost amid noxious slums in others.
Lowry is just such a well-versed good churchman:
New Orleans was partly a catastrophe of the welfare state, which has subsidized inner cities with countless billions of dollars throughout the past 30 years, with little to show for it except more social breakdown.
Lowry meant 40 years, I'm sure. He just can't face the fact that more than a generation has passed since Lyndon Johnson's time. Must be a Baby Boomer.
Now, of course, the implication of this argument is that if you can't guarantee a Utopia then you should not bother to even try to fix any problems. Another way of saying it is that if you can't save everybody, you might as well let everybody drown, which was apparently the thinking behind locking the doors to steerage aboard the Titanic.
But besides the argument's basic cruelty, there is its historical amnesia.
Missing from the argument is any memory of Richard Nixon, benign neglect, Ronald Reagan, soaring deficits, Newt Gingrich, and two George Bushes.
Apparently there have been no Republican governors or Republican-controlled state legislatures either.
The argument depends on ignoring the fact that over the last 40 years the Republicans have either run the government or had a strong enough hand in the running of it that they have been able to thwart, sabotage, stymie, underfund, pervert, or plain mismanage just about every meaningful large-scale "Liberal" big goverment social program.
To hear the Republicans tell it, and then believe them, you have to live in an alternate universe in which Hubert Humphrey beat Nixon, Jimmy Carter won a second term, Walter Mondale found the beef and followed up Jimmy with two terms of his own, and Bill Clinton, with no raging deficit to get under control and no Republican Congressional majority to get in his way, was able to insitute universal health care, expand and not end Welfare, and just generally give us the Village that Hillary says it takes, and that somehow all this led to exactly the same conditions the poor find themselves in this Republicans-ascendent universe.
The way things are now, the way big government social programs work now, or fail to work, is the result of deliberate Republican sabotage. As Matt Yglesias points out in TAPPED, whenever they can, the Republicans choose the option that looks like it will do the worst job.
This is the basic dilemma the right faces. It's committed to the view that the government shouldn't help poor people. But things happen from time to time that make it politically imperative to do something to help poor people. And if the government responded to those circumstances in ways that were efficient and effective, that would generate more political momentum for further poor-helping measures. Thus, the right finds itself forced to implement policies it knows to be ineffective.
I call the sabotage deliberate but in a lot of cases it's also unconscious. Republicans don't know they're out to wreck things because a.) they tell themselves out loud over and over again enough times so that the believe it that they are doing what's best for the poor in the long run and b.) what drives them at all times, in all their choices, including inspiring their antipathy to helping the poor, is their absolute horror at the thought of paying taxes---they quite often make the wrong choice, pick the policy that will not work or work well, because it is the cheapest!
This is another way they are able to cover their heartlessness with a veneer of virtue. They aren't being greedy and uncharitable. They are being thrifty and prudent.
But whether they are consciously or unconsciously doing it, the effect is the same and the motivation is the same, get the government out of the way of their making every single last dime they can imagine making.
If the Goverment is a car setting out to give every one a ride to work, then for 40 years the Republicans have been puncturing the tires, pouring sand in the gas tank, stealing the distributer cap, and, whenever they can get their hands on the wheel, driving it straight into the nearest ditch and then, pointing to the wreckage as the tow truck backs up to it, saying, See, this proves that people were meant to walk.
And they do this so that they don't have to chip in on gas.
An exciting story from today's Times Herald-Record. While the story is about one woman's adventure and has a happy ending, in the background you can see how lucky Texas was this time and that, no matter how much officials are going to congratulate themselves after this, just telling every one to leave town is not much of a plan.
Local family to the rescue
By Tony Lystra
As Hurricane Rita barreled toward the Gulf Coast last week, Amy Estrada wondered what to do.
The 33-year-old Middletown High School graduate, now a manager at a Houston executive search firm, had never experienced such a storm.
Should she board up her windows? Should she evacuate? If so, how should she get out?
Her brother, Ed Estrada, a 39-year-old commercial lender who sits on the Middletown School Board, knew his younger sister needed help.
He hatched a plan to fly into Houston with his father, Antonio Estrada, 62, also of Middletown, just to make sure that Amy didn't have to endure the swirling monster of a storm alone.
What followed was a sleepless, 24-hour adventure along dusty, Texas back roads and a highway crammed with hopeless, stranded motorists.
"It was probably the saddest sight I've ever seen," Ed Estrada said yesterday from an in-law's home near Dallas where he was relaxing after the ordeal.
"There were literally hundreds of cars by the side of the road that had run out of gas."
The effort to help Amy involved much of the Estrada family. Ed and his father left Middletown at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and flew from Newark into Houston.
At the airport, they met Richard Hamilton, 39, the husband of Amy and Ed's sister, Arlene, who lives in Plano, Texas.
Hamilton brought with him a load of plywood to board up Amy's home. Stores in Houston had run out.
For two hours, the threesome battled a slog of evacuating cars until they reached Amy's house, just outside the city in a town called Katy.
Then, with little sleep, in unbearable heat, they began to nail plywood over Amy's windows.
Amy, meanwhile, gathered her most precious belongings: photos, clothing, her computer, a few documents.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the family set out, Amy and her father driving her Honda, Ed and his brother-in-law driving a truck.
They meandered along back roads, searching for a place to cross Interstate 10. But each time they neared the thoroughfare they found chaos: A sea of red brake lights, empty gas tanks, furrowed brows.
Yesterday, Amy Estrada recalled surveying the situation from an overpass. "God forbid, if this hurricane hits," she remembered thinking. "What are they going to do on the side of the road?"
Hamilton found a dirt road. It was around midnight. He had little idea where it went.
But the family decided to chance it. The cars kicked up dust in the darkness as they passed signs marked, "cattle crossing." All the drivers knew was that they were headed north.
More than 24 hours after Ed Estrada and his father left Middletown, shortly before Rita mounted her attack on the coast, the family arrived in Plano and found safety in the Hamilton home.
While Rita had ravaged eastern portions of the state, she showed Houston her mercy. Yes, branches had fallen. Windows had broken. The power spiked and died in short intervals.
But, as Amy said yesterday with all the optimism she could muster, "Everything's pretty much fine."
Authorities have urged the millions who fled Rita to wait before returning.
But Amy wants to go home.
Today, she plans to return to Houston, to assess the damage, to spend yet another night in her house, which, for reasons known only to Rita, had been spared.
Coverage of Rita I've seen this morning seems to boil down to a giant collective "Phew!" as if no matter how much damage a hurricane does, no matter how many people die, and no matter how inadequate local and Federal planning and their response were, as long as we didn't suffer another New Orleans, everything's fine.
Things aren't fine. Rita killed people and destroyed homes and ruined lives, and New Orleans is in even more trouble. Amy Estrada can stay with her sister as long as she needs to and when it's time she can return home to an intact house and a good job. A lot of people didn't have her luck.
You can donate to the Red Cross here.
AmeriCares' donation page is here.
And I expect that the shelters are feeling even more overwhelmed. Here's a good way to help them.
The President delivered his speech to an empty city last night, I guess figuring that if he spoke only to ghosts he wouldn't hear the jeers and catcalls he deserved.
I know. I know. It was symbolic. The President was leading the way back into the ruined the city, the first one there to begin the rebuilding. Over on Bourbon Street people with degrees in semiotics put down their drinks and nodded approvingly at Karl Rove's brilliance.
I didn't watch. The Heretik did. Yesterday morning. In his mind's eye. He described the speech perfectly hours before the Bush had even cleared his throat. The Heretik isn't a clairvoyant anymore than Bush is a medium. The charade was just so darn predictable.
But the Heretik watched the speech again, on TV and in real time, to see how much he'd gotten right, which was all of it, although Bush surprised him with one thing. Surprised is the wrong word. Appalled?
Bush's call for the military to intervene in future disasters was the most surreal and nightmarish moment of the entire dark drama writ in words black and blue last night. Bush here would once again take advantage of a wounded country to advance a most backward agenda of more control. And this from a man who campaigns against government?
In the first few days after the leeves broke, and New Orleans began to sink into water, chaos, and misery, a lot of people wondered why the President didn't order the regular Army into action. (Steve Gilliard had several posts about the specific units Bush could have called in.) The National Guard units from the stricken states were spread too thin over the whole Gulf Coast---the units that weren't in Iraq---and Guard units from other states that wanted to help couldn't mobilize fast enough---in at least one case, New Mexico's, because the Pentagon didn't do the paperwork---so why didn't Bush send in the regular Army right away instead of waiting until almost the end of the week?
But he brought up the idea of calling in the troops next time as if he hadn't been able to do it this time. What was that? Another pretense? Was he pretending he hadn't done what he'd done and that he didn't have the power to do what he was pretending not to have done in hopes that we would all forget that he'd done it too late?
The Heretik thinks that he's looking for more military powers than he already has, more direct control of the troops.
The coverage of the speech, before and after, is what dismayed me. (Make sure you follow the Heretik's linkages.) The coverage treated the speech as something apart from the disaster Bush was supposed to be doing something about at last, as if it was not a policy statement or a plan of action but a campaign appearance.
As if it was possible and actually important to see if the speech did what Karl Rove wanted it to do, not as if it committed Bush to any real measures to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
A piece of performance art.
Would he, could he, regain his mojo with this speech? Did he or didn't he get back his game?
Something that drives me nuts about The West Wing is that the show presents speeches as mattering most as performances, both rhetorical and theatrical, and a knock-out performance is as good as completing the actions a speech promises. Well, it's a TV show, and all problems must be wrapped up neatly within the course of a story arc, and it's a writers' show with the President's speechwriters as its heroes. But that's not how it's supposed to work in real life. A well-performed speech doesn't do anything.
Performance is a part of leadership. A President who doesn't look and act like a President pesuasively can't be President because no one will pay attention. But I thought that one of the things Katrina showed was that looking and acting like a President can't be something the President does only during scripted moments on TV. Acting like a President means taking action as the President. Bush hasn't looked like a President since Katrina made landfall not because he didn't act the part, but because he didn't act.
The whole world saw him fail.
The measure of the speech should have been how far it went towards committing Bush to specific actions that would make up for his previous inaction. How far did it go towards making him act as President?
But it was previewed and it's been reviewed as if Bush's failure was only an image problem: would it restore his image as a can-do President, how far did it go towards making him look like a President again, as if looking the part was separate from acting not like but as the President.
The thrust of the speech was a foregone conclusion. Bush had to promise to help rebuild. New Orleans, Biloxi, and the other broken towns and cities in the region had already begun to put themselves back together. Nobody needed Bush to come in and get the job underway. The first question that the speech should have been addressing was what specifically he was going to do to help.
The answer, knowing Bush, was also a foregone conclusion: appropriate a lot of money that will end up in the pockets of his pals and financial backers.
But the second question was and still is, Even if Bush had committed himself to anything substantial and actually designed to help rather than designed to make a bunch of already rich people richer (and by the way the two things aren't mutually exclusive. Corruption and competence can cooperate to build bridges and roads and even whole cities) why should we believe that he could deliver?
What has he done in the past that shows that he knows how to do anything right?
Why should we believe in him?
We've got Iraq.
We've got Katrina.
What's he got?
A speech full of nothing delivered to an audience of ghosts in front of a church turned into a cheesy set on a studio backlot where the lights weren't even aimed right.
Update: Via Gilliard: On September 8, the New York Times reported on why Bush was slow to deploy regular Army troops in New Olreans. Apparently the President can send combat troops in for relief missions, but he can't order them to do police work without invoking the Insurrection Act, and any early relief missions would have been also de facto policing because the troops would have had to establish law and order in order to do their jobs. Bush's advisors told him that Governor Blanco would have objected to the President invoking the Insurrection Act which would have forced her to surrender state control to the President for the duration---why they thought she would object when she pretty clearly had lost control and was begging for federal troops, the Times doesn't say.
So the Heretik may be on to something. Bush may be looking for permission to be able to take over control from local governments without having to invoke the Insurrection Act.
NBC's Brian Williams reports that the President's roadies, stagehands, gaffers, and grippes were at least able to get the lights on along the route his motorcade took.
Of course they turned them right off after the President was done with them, leaving residents like he left the rest of us with his speech---in the dark.
"The poor you will always have with you, you will not always have me."
Kurt Vonnegut says that Jesus was making a joke here. Plenty of time to go do your good deeds. Enjoy my company while you can, because guess what? In another couple of days? I'll be dead! Jesus says of the woman annointing his head with a very expensive ointment, "She is preparing my body for burial." The joke is doubly ironic because the Gospel has it that the apostle objecting to the waste---"We can sell that ointment and give the money to the poor!"---is Judas. Behind Jesus' joke about his own upcoming death is an unspoken, "And you know that better than anyone, don't you, traitor?" And we know that pretty soon Judas is going to come into some money that he can use to help the poor all he wants.
But for 2000 years a lot of people have managed to interpret that passage not as a joke but as an argument against charity. What's the point of giving to beggars, if the poor we will always have with us? And don't even think about social or economic changes designed to rid the world of poverty! Why, it's practically blasphemy. Jesus himself said there was nothing to be done about the poor. In fact, that gospel lesson teaches that it's God's will that there be poor people. They're poor because God wants them to be poor. And why would He want them to be poor? To punish them, of course. They must deserve their poverty.
Just as I deserve to be rich.
You remember, of course, how right after New Orleans sank beneath Lake George, all the chattering apologists for W. began to splutter in unison that of course what happened wasn't the President's fault---that was a stupid place to build a city to begin with!
Flood's the best thing that happened to the place. Now we can tear it down and move it to a better location, somewhere where the weather won't ever bother it.
But then it was pointed out that New Orleans is where it was because the site is a perfect place for a port and that's what New Orleans is, a port, one of the busiest in the world, so that building it there wasn't stupid, just risky, but moving it would be truly dumb because then it wouldn't be near the ocean and so it wouldn't be a port, and besides the argument that it's stupid to build cities where there's bad weather and inhospitable geography was also an agrument for emptying out Southern Florida, the whole Mississippi River Valley, California, and all of the Midwest that sits in Tornado Alley; and then, on top of that, it became clear that the levees broke because George Bush had been busy cutting the Army Corps of Engineers' budget, so the forces of SBFB---Save Bush From Blame---had to change plans.
Well, then, it was the fault of all the people who refused to evacuate. They were stupid! They brought on their own suffering! (We'll ignore for now all the people who did evacuate and lost their homes and all they had to the flood water sloshing over George Bush's broken levees.) They did it to themselves! They should have git while the gittin' was good.
But then they had to deal with the inconvenient fact that most of the people who were trapped by the flood were trapped not by water but by gasoline---or rather the lack of it and internal combustion machines to pour it into. They were poor. They didn't own cars. How were they supposed to leave? And where were they supposed to go?
SBFB had to change plans again.
It was Governor Blanco's fault! It's Mayor Nagin's fault. They should have done more to get them out ahead of time! (To some extent this one is true.) If they couldn't do it themselves, the Governor should have declared a state of emergency and asked the Feds for help sooner.
Here a lot of Bush's would-be defenders have had the good sense to shut up and try to change the subject. Let's focus on the recovery, they say. We can play the blame game later (adding under their breaths, after everybody's forgotten about how badly the President and his gang booted this one.)
But a stalwart few have found another line of defense.
It's the poor's own fault for being poor.
Sometimes the best songs are the old songs, and this one has been a standard in the Republican songbook since the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.
The Party of Lincoln stopped being the party of Lincoln two days after his death. From then on out it was the party of Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller, and its first commandment has been ever since, "The Government shalt never do anything that gets in the way of me making a whopping big pile of loot."
The Second Commandment follows from that:
"Thou shalt not ever admit that there are other people who need help that only the Government can provide because that might require the Government to do things in violation of the First Commandment."
The Third Commandment is then, usefully, "Thou shalt never acknowledge that people who need help are in fact people or at least not people who deserve my notice, help, or compassion."
Are they poor? It's because they don't work hard! It's because they don't deserve to be anything but! It's because God frowns on them! It's because they lack character! It's because they aren't like me!
There is no such thing as luck in their view. Everybody has what they've earned. I think they believe that if they'd been born to hill people in the jungles of Borneo, orphaned at an early age, and raised by a tribe of orangutans they'd have still grown up to be stockbrokers and corporate vice-presidents.
Related: Googling my way to the best wording of Jesus' joke to Judas---You know, the Bible is the literal word of God and all that, but I wish He'd pick one good translation and stick with it. For an omniscient beng He sure doesn't seem to know the best way to put things in English---I came across a post from December by Steve of Ragamuffin Ramblings who was frustrated with someone interpreting the Gospel in that good old Republican way. Steve has a slightly differnet take on what Jesus' was saying. He doesn't see Jesus as being as much of a smartass as Vonnegut and I do. But his conclusion is the same: Jesus wasn't giving anyone permission to not bother to help the poor.
Memo to deans of journalism schools:
Please add to your curriculum freshman courses in Psychology, Philosophy, and Literature.
This is from an otherwise refreshingly critical article by Newsweek's Evan Thomas:
President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.
I realize that they just can't help themselves. Journalists often feel they can't write an entirely negative article, even when there's nothing positive to say, which there isn't when you're writing, as Thomas is, about Bush's handling of Katrina's aftermath. They are trained to believe that there are always two sides to every story so that they don't just accept as gospel whatever a source tells them.
That there are often 5 or more sides to a story and that all 5 can be wrong or---even more frustrating---all 5 can be right is another problem that has the same effect on the way they construct their stories. If almost anything you write can and will be contradicted, the prudent approach is to build the contradictions right into the story as you go.
So whenever you write the sky is blue, you automatically follow it up with "Critics of the President (or Supporters of the President) point out that on rainy days the sky is gray, at night it is black, and on Mars it is kind of reddish."
And journalists working Inside the Beltway flatter and fawn by habit because they are often writing about friends, friends of friends, friends of their bosses, and people they hope will invite them to parties or offer them high-paying jobs when they get sick of living with their noses pressed up against the windows of the houses and offices of the rich and powerful and famous.
And they flatter and fawn because they are dependent for stories upon sources who are often petty, small-minded, vindictive, egomaniacal, and as vain as Snow White's Step-mother the Evil Queen before her mirror, and if you don't flatter and fawn they will stop taking your calls, give scoops to your rivals, and devote their energies to finding other ways of punishing you and ruining your life and career.
"His doggedness is often admirable?"
When he doggedly pursues a course of failure and death in Iraq?
When he doggedly refuses to read memos that might tell him that terrorists planning on using hijacked airliners for kamikazee attacks on tall buildings like the World Trade Center are in the country and hard at work on their mission?
When he doggedly ignores Karl Rove's smear campaigns against political opponents?
When he doggedly persists in cutting taxes for his rich friends and relations and financial backers while the Federal budget implodes and deficits balloon and then, to protect those tax cuts, doggedly supports cutting benefits and programs for the middle class and the poor?
When he doggedly enjoys his vacation while a bereaved mother of a fallen soldier bakes in the Texas sun outside his toy ranch or when he doggedly attempts to finish it out while a Category 5 hurricane bears down on the Gulf Coast?
But suppose that like a stopped clock that's right twice a day Bush's doggedness is every now and then a good thing.
A temperamental tic is not a virtue.
There are times when getting angry is the right thing to do, but a person who is always angry makes life miserable for himself and everybody around him.
There are times when self-doubt can save you from making horrible mistakes, but a person who always doubts himself is as helpless in a crisis as a person who never doubts himself is dangerous in moments when self-doubt is called for, even if confidence is otherwise a virtue.
He who hesitates is lost, but he who never hestitates is impulsive, reckless, childish, volatile, imprudent, self-centered, foolhardy, and at the end of the day dead, in jail, riding in an ambulance, or watching the other team walk off the field with the trophy.
Doggedness is a virtue when giving up is the wrong course of action. Doggedness that is not a virtue but only another word for stubbornness, lack of imagination, mulishness, and a foolish and unsupported overconfidence may be a useful quality in a police detective or a research scientist or in rescue workers determined to reach a little girl trapped at the bottom of a well, provided such doggedness is tempered by other less self-blinding qualities or actual virtues.
Doggedness in a President who is determined to win a just and winnable war or who has set out to rescue a drowning city is admirable, but beside the fact that Bush is doggedly doing neither---he is doggedly refusing to face up to his mistakes in both Iraq and New Orleans---the kind of doggedness Evan Thomas is describing is not a virtue in a President.
Thomas chooses his words to paint a negative picture of the political realities a President has to deal with daily. The distracting chatter he has Bush doggedly ignoring includes advice from aides and experts, lawyers and scientists, foreign leaders, Congressmen, Senators, Governors, and his father.
The caterwauling of the Media Elites---which has been for the most part flattering and complimentary and supportive of him and therefore easy to doggedly ignore or seem to ignore while doggedly eating it up with a spoon---includes bad news and just criticism resulting from decisions he's made and needs to reconsider and it includes information he apparently isn't getting from his aides, like the fact that the levees in New Orleans would not hold in a big storm.
And the Washington political buzz machine, by which Thomas means the Conventional Wisdom, cocktail party gossip, and self-congratulatory and self-aggrandizing "If I Were President" bloviating of pundits, legislators, bureaucrats, careerists, and the many and various hangers-on who fill out the population of official Washington, also includes reports from pollsters, the latest writings from the very best journalists, historians, political scientists, and other experts, and plain, common sensical descriptions derived from daily observation of how the world is working---in other words it includes the news of what the American people are doing and thinking and putting up with and what they are mad as hell about and what they would like to see done about it.
I'm going to put aside for now the fact that this Administration is driven by poll numbers in a way and to an intense degree that no other Administration has ever been, that the Bush Leaguers' self-proclaimed indifference to polls is a lie---it's just that they don't react to polls, they set out to manipulate them ahead of time.
At a certain point, a President has to stop listening to advice, ignore criticism, damn the consequences at the voting booths, and do what he knows to be right. Sometimes he can't know. He can only feel it and then he has to go with his gut.
But a President who doesn't listen to advice, who never heeds criticism, who doesn't give a damn what the American people think, want, or need, who never knows what it is right because he never bothers to do the hard intellectual work required to know and who goes with his gut because he has nothing else to go with, who would go with his gut even if he did know because he is stubborn, vain, egotistical, and self-absorbed, that President is a dogged menace.
So, all you deans of journalism school---and the deans of all the finest schools of journalism read the Lance Mannion Chronicle of Higher Education daily---a simple requirement that all journalism majors take courses in Psychology, Philosophy, and Literature would help them see the difference between a person who is dogged in a particular situation because in that situation doggedness is called for and a person who is dogged because that is how his genes, parents, personal experience, vanities, and God collaborated to put him together.
Problem with my recommendation is that I'm sure someone like Evan Thomas took all those courses and earned excellent grades in them too. Thomas has written a biography of Bobby Kennedy that is psychologically insightful and persuasive.
But all that he learned in his liberal arts classes has often failed Thomas when he's written about Bush in the past and, as assistant managing editor at Newsweek, he hasn't been able to impress it upon the reporters and editors who work with him.
And when you go back to that paragraph and re-read the bits about the buzz machine and the caterwauling of the media elites the irony of it would be laughable if it wasn't so dishearteningly familiar.
Because that paragraph is a perfect expression of the buzz and the caterwauling. It is a retailing of the Conventional Wisdom, a quick summary of the story the Media Elites have been telling since 1992.
The subject of that paragraph is not George Bush. It is Bill Clinton.
Thomas is recapping allusively the Media Elite's ur-myth of the Clinton years. The myth of Lawyer Bill, the smarty pants policy wonk and intellectual show-off, who talked all his decisions to death, who over-thought everything, who refused to make a decision because he was enamored of the decision-making process and his own brainy part in it, who could debate what is is; the myth of Slick Willy the shady-dealing back-country pol who never went with his gut, who didn't make a move without consulting the polls, who needed a media advisor to tell him where to go on vacation. Clinton the scoundrel who needed to be replaced by an honest, down to earth, man of the people who knew his own mind and went with his gut.
George Bush's doggedness is often admirable in Evan Thomas's world because it's usually discussed not as Bush's virtue but Bill Clinton's failure.
(I found the link to Thomas' article at Steve Gilliard's News Blog. Steve and Jen continue to blog Katrina with admirable doggedness.)
Related: John at Pre$$titutes links to stories by the Washington Post and USA Today that also include reflexive genuflecting before the Media-created image of George Bush the decisive leader and great communicator while criticizing him for being neither decisive nor great at communicating in the wake of Katrina.
Update because I couldn't find the link when I wrote the post: Couple of other things Evan Thomas hasn't been able to impress upon his colleagues at Newsweek, besides basic lessons in Psychology---have more than one source for a story and people in this White House lie with every breath. Josh Marshall reported that the Washington Post and Newsweek swallowed this whopper hook, line, and sinker from somebody in the Bush Administration determined that the blame game finishes with local officials taking all of the heat, that Louisiana Governor Blanco hadn't yet declared a State of Emergency days after Katrina hit when in fact she had declared one on August 26, the Friday before. Following up: Atrios discovers that editors at the Post probably knew they were lied to and don't much care.
Blue Girl's been worrying that she's one of the Mrs Jellybys I wrote about yesterday, a Liberal do-gooder ignoring her own family to engage in charity work for the sole purpose of admiring her own do-gooderness.
This is because she dragged her son along on a trip down to her church to help prepare care packages for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
As it happens I knew a real-life Mrs Jellyby. This Mrs Jellyby was a neighbor of mine. Blue Girl is no Mrs Jellyby.
Blue Girl is just a person trying to do some good. And she would like some help from us. The Methodist Church is putting together Health Kits for the people driven from their homes by the hurricane and the flood and who will be living in shelters for who knows how long. The kits include the basics for keeping up daily hygiene: a towel, a wash cloth, a bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, nail clippers, and band-aids.
If you'd like to send a kit or contribute $12 to buy a kit go on over to Blue Girl's page for more information.
If anyone knows of other places doing something particular like the health kits, please leave a link in the comments.
The Red Cross donation page is here.
And here is the donation page for AmeriCares.
At the moment, I'm not sure I want the Michaels, Chertoff and Brown, to lose their jobs.
Over the last couple of weeks it's sometimes seemed to me as though the Secretary of Homeland Security and the head of FEMA are the only two people in the Bush Administration with working hearts.
They've looked and sounded as if they've actually been concerned about what's happened since Katrina hit.
That might just be a trick of perspective. They look and sound concerned in comparison with their boss, George "Slow Hand" Bush.
Probably what I'm seeing in them is nothing more than self-love. They are desperately concerned---concerned that Katrina has made them look like fools and scoundrels and it's going to ruin their reputations, if not their careers.
Concern is over-rated anyway.
Any sloppy, teary-eyed milquetoast with a soft heart and a softer head can be concerned. The trick is to act on your concern.
And concern---caring---feeling deeply about things, about causes and children starving in Africa and your pain, about friends, family, the victims of natural disasters and lost pets and vanishing rainforests and stockholders and the bottom line and the New York Mets, is all too often merely projection.
We care deeply about all those things because we care deeply about ourselves and we see ourselves, darkly, in the looking glass of the world around us. We double our conceit. We love the mirror and then we love ourselves for loving the mirror.
It's how so many bad people don't know themselves to be bad.
Richard the Third steps to the front of the stage to let the audience in on his secret: "Since I cannot prove a lover, I am determined to prove a villain."
But most villains in real life, allowed to soliloquize, would preen like Malvolio in his yellow stockings.
"I am so good. I am so nice! I love him! I love her! I try so hard! I work so hard! I sacrifice so much, I give so much, I do so much, feel so much, care so much! How can you think I'm not a good person?"
I'm sure a lot of Liberal bloggers practice this intensive brand of narcissism known as caring. (Right Wing bloggers seem to make a virtue of not caring.) There are among us many a Mrs Jellyby, writing our letters in support of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha while our families and friends suffer the effects of our benign neglect and our morally sanctioned abuse as we force them to serve our self-love by sacrificing their needs to our pet causes and hobbies.
There's nobody specific I'd accuse of being Mrs Jellyby, even if I could, which I can't, because how would I know who truly cares and who's merely in love with the image of themselves as caring---the two qualities look alike on the outside.
For the record, I am a no good bum with a sliver of ice at the center of my heart.
The list of little villainies and lesser evils perpetrated by people who care is as long as an inventory of FEMA's failures; to write it out would use up as many closely-typed pages as Condi Rice's credit card bill.
This is why the Catholic Church has always taught that the only thing that accompanies us to heaven is Good Works.
People are measured by the good that they actually do, not by the nice feelings they indulge while they sort of, kind of try, or pretend to try, or mean to try, sometime, when they have the time.
I'm no fan of the Church, as you've probably figured out if you've read my past posts on the subject, but this is one thing Catholicism has over Evangelical Protestantism which teaches that the key to heaven is faith in Jesus Christ---which is to say, you are judged by how much you care.
It's a religion designed as if to give narcissists a place to pray.
I'm not about to suggest that George Bush's moral and practical failures are due to his being an Evangelical.
Jimmy Carter is an Evangelical Christian.
But this emphasis on Faith, on what you feel, is a temptation to easy self-approval and self-congratulation, and it sure looks as though Bush's internalizing of his religion has resulted in the daily practice of self-love and self-idealization.
"Look at me, I'm a good man! I care! I feel bad for Trent Lott's losing his multi-million dollar house! I feel compassion for poor Brownie, trying so hard and taking so much heat. I believe in Freedom, I believe in Democracy, I believe in God, Jesus Christ, and wiping out terrorism! I love my wife and I'm loyal to my friends, I hug bereaved moms and cheer on the first responders and I visit the troops! I work so hard!"
Has there been another President whose speeches and off the cuff remarks were so full of self-congratulation?
"Watch this drive!"
So I guess it's not a surprise that his only real response to the diaster so far has been to work harder at appearing to care or that as Tim Naftali wrote in Slate that instead of directing
...the U.S. military to immediately assist the thousands of people without food or water in the city center, Bush assured the nation that expected gasoline shortages would be temporary and that his father and former President Clinton were ready to pass the tin can to ensure private-sector support for rebuilding New Orleans.
That is, he assured people he cares and that other people care.
And this substitution of feeling for action trickles down through his entire administration. Naftali reports that Michael Chertoff, whom I really do want to see fired, along with Michael Brown, now, seemed to want to be congratulated for caring more than he wanted to actually do anything to prove it and "Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who is commanding the military component of Washington's response, pleaded for patience from the people of New Orleans, promising that the U.S. Army was 'building the capability' to help them," which sounds as if Honore expected people stranded on their rooftops and going hungry and thirsty in the Superdome and facing the loss of all they have to be grateful for the Army's good intentions. Message: We care!
There are plenty who believe that George Bush doesn't really care, that he fakes feeling, that he knows the words but not the meaning, that he's a hollow fraud, that he is, as Marshall Wittman suggests, emotionally retarded.
But who knows? Anyway, it doesn't matter how full his heart is because he doesn't act on his feelings, if he has them, and because really he is irrelevent to his own Administration.
The White House is run by three men who if you sliced them open and removed their hearts wouldn't notice or even mind. Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld are proud of how callous and unfeeling they are. None of them smiles and smiles and plays the villain to deceive anybody, they smile and smile because they enjoy playing the villain. They don't need to step to the front of the stage and deliver a soliloquoy to let us know what they're really thinking.
I'd say that given the hypocrisy of the people who care such open heartlessness is refreshing, even attractive, but life is not a play, and I don't live in Biloxi or New Orleans or Iraq.
(Thanks to Susie Madrak for the link to Bull Moose.)
Donate to The Red Cross here.
Donate to AmeriCares here.
See Blue Girl's page for information on how to donate Health Kits for the dispossessed.
But you knew that.
NORFOLK, Va. - Rudolph Giuliani, who guided New York City through the dark days after Sept. 11, said there is no place for second-guessing during an emergency, and he is not interested in criticizing the way government officials handled Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
The former mayor said before a speech Tuesday that it is too soon to draw any conclusions about whether the agencies that responded took too long or who was responsible. When the situation stabilizes, Giuliani said, the nation can examine the rescue efforts.
Too soon. We have to wait. How long? Until the Media and a lot of the public are focused on something else and we can hold an "investigation" that will exonerate George Bush and his cronies from blame and scapegoat the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana, that's how long.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart said that every Republican who does not publicly condemn George Bush's criminally incompetent response to the hurricane risks losing credibility.
But Republicans who do condemn George Bush, publicly or privately to the wrong tattle-taling ratfink, risk losing things that matter to them more than credibility---money and support from the Republican Party power brokers.
Michael Bloomberg has come out and said the obvious, but Bloomberg doesn't expect he'll ever be the Republican nominee for President and he has a city to run and worry about and New Orleans gave him a horrific preview of what he can expect from the Bush Leaguers if New York City suffers another terrorist attack.
Trent Lott knows. Trent Lott of the soon to be rebuilt front porch George Bush has already invited himself over to sit on. Trent Lott knows, although he can't bring himself to come right out and say it.
Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, just back from a week surveying damage in his home state, allowed that "mistakes are being made" but tried to counsel restraint Tuesday as calls for Brown's removal escalated. But even Lott displayed some of the potent emotions spawned by the horrific conditions on the Gulf Coast.
"If somebody said, `You pick somebody to hammer,' I don't know who I'd pick," he told reporters. "I did threaten to physically beat a couple of people in the last couple of days, figuratively speaking."
If now is not the time to criticize---Republicans---or seek to assign blame---to Republicans; criticizing Democrats and assigning the blame to them is Karl Rove's emergency plan---then there never will be a time.
The Bush Leaguers do things for only three reasons.
1. To get votes.
2. To accrue power.
3. To make money for themselves and their friends and their base, which not the Religious Right, whatever the Fundies themselves think; it's the worst of the corporate rich.
All three reasons are really the same reason. To rule and grow rich while ruling is their dream, their intention, and their current reality.
If they are not made to feel that their criminal negligence and murderous incompetence will cost them votes, power, or money, they will not change anything.
And criticism from Democrats will not make them feel it. They despise the Democrats and laugh at them.
And the disapproval and outrage of the American People will not make them feel it. They despise us and laugh at us too and on top of this they think they can always play us for suckers. That's why Bush is running around playing at being a firefighter again instead of back in the White House firing people. Karl Rove is pretty sure we'll all fall for the masquerade. He may be right.
The only criticism the Bush Leaguers will listen to has to come from a unified front of powerful Republicans.
Mavericks, renegades, rebels, and heroic loners will be ignored or crushed by the Party Machine.
But Giuliani isn't keeping quiet out of politeness, despair, timidity, or a pessimistic pragmatism.
He's keeping quiet because he's ambitious.
Lots of people have been suggesting that Bush should appoint Giuliani to direct the rescue and recovery. There's no reason to suppose that he would be especially good at the job. He has tremendous executive experience, of course. He was in a habit of hiring competent people to do important jobs. Well, there was Bernie Kerik, but still. If Giuliani himself didn't know what to do, he'd know how to find and recognize people who did.
But the main reason for putting him in charge is the reason he won't be put in charge. The same reason that he wasn't made head of Homeland Security. He is seen as the man who led the country through its worst moments on 9/11. Nobody, nobody, is allowed to upstage George Bush.
So Giuliani was overlooked twice for the job.
There are some people who think that Giuliani deliberately and malciously foisted Bernie Kerik on Bush just to pay him back for the snub.
Ah, would that it were so!
Giuliani says he doesn't want the job of taking charge of cleaning up and rebuilding after Katrina.
He puts it curiously though, according to AP:
Giuliani said he would be willing to take a role in the relief effort but was not seeking a position.
Told by a questioner after the speech that he seemed the ideal candidate to head the, Giuliani said: "Maybe in a few years. Right now, I'm not a candidate for anything."
In a few years? Be specific, Rudy. You mean in 4 years, right? When there's a new President? A new Republican President who'll remember which other Republicans were loyal and which ones put their consciences and what was good for the country ahead of what was useful for George W. Bush?
I guess this means he's given up the idea he can be President himself.
(Revised and corrected Friday morning, thanks to a heads up from Kathy Flake. I had written that James Lee Witt, Bill Clinton's director of FEMA, whom George Bush had praised before taking office, was still on the job on 9/11. But Bush didn't reappoint him despite his supposed high regard for the man and gave the job to his campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Allbaugh left in 2003, having found his true calling in life as a war profiteer. See Slate.)
No administration could credibly investigate such an immense failure on its own watch. And we have learned through bitter experience - the Abu Ghraib nightmare is just one example - that when this administration begins an internal investigation, it means a whitewash in which no one important is held accountable and no real change occurs.
Michael Brown should begin polishing up his resume update: The New Zealand Herald reports that Trent Lott was less circumspect about criticizing Brown than he appears to be above:
Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican who lost his coastal home in the storm, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown's job was in jeopardy.
"If he doesn't solve a couple of problems that we've got right now he ain't going to be able to hold the job, because what I'm going to do to him ain't going to be pretty."
Link courtesy of Deborah White at About: Liberal and Progressive Politics
I know the Governor of Louisiana tried. I know the Mayor of New Orleans tried.
They didn't try hard enough.
They knew that if and when they ordered citizens to evacuate the city, tens of thousands of people would have no way to get it. They didn't have cars, they didn't have the money. There were thousands and thousands of school buses all over the country sitting idle last week. Every school district in the country would have sent buses, if they'd been asked.
The Governor and the Mayor knew that the Superdome was going to be the biggest storm shelter in town. They didn't have it ready.
They failed their citizens. They tried, but they did not try hard enough.
But this is the key point. Local officials failed to prepare adequately for Katrina.
George Bush failed to save the city after the storm hit!
Heroes come to the rescue.
They don't show up five days later to have their pictures taken, pretending to come to the rescue, while thousands of people still need to be saved!
George Bush is not a hero.
But we didn't need him to be a hero.
We just needed him to be President.
Jason Chervokas on why they didn't leave:
Sure, many of the folks left behind chose not to evacuate despite a mandatory order from the mayor. But many more merely had no means of leaving. For anyone who never worked a minimum wage job, who never had bank account balances routinely fall into the single digits between paychecks, its hard to image the kind of bare-subsistence, hand-to-mouth life lived by millions of Americans. But I heard one woman on TV, successfully evacuated to a hotel in Houston, saying it was going to be the last night she was going to be able to say there because her cash was gone and she only had $8 in savings. People living in poverty in America live in a different nation from the upper class and the new super rich class.
Nancy Nall, blogging at the Detroit News, on Distancing:
It's natural, when bad things happen to other people, to search for a reason. Everyone does it; it makes us feel safer. Of course it's terrible that woman was raped, but she shouldn't have been walking home after dark, especially not in that neighborhood. No wonder the Turners' son is on drugs -- his mother stuck him in daycare when he was six weeks old. Joe's heart attack shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who's seen him put away a pepperoni pizza.
Needless to say, we would never walk home after dark through that neighborhood, put a newborn in daycare or eat pork sausage so heedlessly. So of course these things will not happen to us.
I've always thought of this phenomenon as "distancing," the way a herd skitters away when the lions take a straggler. I'm waiting for the distancing from the events in New Orleans to assert itself.
Tom Watson on how Conservativism fails:
...it's not just laziness and incompetence and lack of interest. I'll tell you what it is: philosophical doctrine.
Failed, discredited, immoral, racist, un-Godly conservative doctrine.
For this crew, government is bad in its essence, whilst power remains good; that's a strange, warped view to govern under, but it's what we now have at the helm of the United States. This government did not act because under its philosophy government should not act. Government does best when it stays out of the way, and lets folks just be folks. Caveat: except in oil-rich foreign lands. Then, government action is an investment in resource exploitation, er, democracy and freedom.
No, this government sat back on its heels, was horribly incapable of acting, because action was anathema to its soul. Heck, better to roll back the estate tax - or do away with bankruptcy protection for the middle class and working poor. Poverty has risen for five consecutive years for the first time in U.S. history: that's a good thing, the markets are at work, things will even out. The business of America is business, said another failed Republican, in pre-Depression mode. Nice little saying.
No, true hard-core conservatives do not believe in a social compact, a common effort, knitting all classes together. They believe in winner take all...
And Chervokas again, this time on the President's anger:
Now the President says he's angry. That federal efforts are unacceptable. He IS federal efforts, and so is the Republican party. He's angry at who? Certainly not at himself. When has he ever said, "I'm disappointed in myself, in my leadership. I didn't do enough. FEMA is my agency." I'm sure we're not going to hear those words. Karl Rove would never clear them. Incompetence, diminished expectations, covering your ass, these are the hallmarks of George Bush's America.
...about public relations.
The Bush Leaguers are reacting swiftly to last week's disasters.
The disasters being in their minds the world-wide criticism of their complete and criminally negligent screw-up in responding to Katrina and the fool the President made of himself Friday while visiting New Olreans and other areas ravaged by the hurricane.
Our hands-on President is going back for more photo-ops.
Who says they don't care?
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.
Donate to the Red Cross here.
Donate to AmeriCares here.
See Blue Girls Page for information on how to donate Health Kits for the dispossessed.
I mean it. Can't they tear him down and put up an actual human being?
And while they're at it, how about a rehab on the director of FEMA Michael Brown?
Hastert, a United States Congressman, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one of the most powerful men in the country, thinks that Katrina did a half-assed job on New Orleans and we should finish the city off for her.
This is from the Times-Picayune's amazing hurricane blog, which unfortunately but understandably wasn't put together with the idea that bloggers like me should have an easy time linking to entries, which is why I'm swiping the whole post. Scroll on down if you're familiar with Hastert's loutish suggestions that New Orleans isn't worth the trouble or the money:
House Speaker: Rebuilding N.O. doesn't make sense
Thursday, 2:55 p.m.
By Bill Walsh
WASHINGTON - House Speaker Dennis Hastert dropped a bombshell on flood-ravaged New Orleans on Thursday by suggesting that it isn’t sensible to rebuild the city.
"It doesn't make sense to me," Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in editions published today. "And it's a question that certainly we should ask."
Hastert's comments came as Congress cut short its summer recess and raced back to Washington to take up an emergency aid package expected to be $10 billion or more. Details of the legislation are still emerging, but it is expected to target critical items such as buses to evacuate the city, reinforcing existing flood protection and providing food and shelter for a growing population of refugees.
The Illinois Republican’s comments drew an immediate rebuke from Louisiana officials.
“That’s like saying we should shut down Los Angeles because it’s built in an earthquake zone,” former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said. “Or like saying that after the Great Chicago fire of 1871, the U.S. government should have just abandoned the city.”
Hastert said that he supports an emergency bailout, but raised questions about a long-term rebuilding effort. As the most powerful voice in the Republican-controlled House, Hastert is in a position to block any legislation that he opposes.
"We help replace, we help relieve disaster," Hastert said. "But I think federal insurance and everything that goes along with it... we ought to take a second look at that."
The speaker’s comments were in stark contrast to those delivered by President Bush during an appearance this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I want the people of New Orleans to know that after rescuing them and stabilizing the situation, there will be plans in place to help this great city get back on its feet,” Bush said. “There is no doubt in my mind that New Orleans is going to rise up again as a great city.”
Insurance industry executives estimated that claims from the storm could range up to $19 billion. Rebuilding the city, which is more than 80 percent submerged, could cost tens of billions of dollars more, experts projected.
Hastert questioned the wisdom of rebuilding a city below sea level that will continue to be in the path of powerful hurricanes.
"You know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake issures and they rebuild, too. Stubbornness," he said.
Hastert wasn't the only one questioning the rebuilding of New Orleans. The Waterbury, Conn., Republican-American newspaper wrote an editorial Wednesday entitled, "Is New Orleans worth reclaiming?"
"Americans' hearts go out to the people in Katrina's path," it said. "But if the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm's way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property."
I know there has been a lot of interesting, and angry, discussions of the roles of race and class in the coverage and reaction to Katrina's aftermath. It's almost certain that things would be a lot different if the scared and angry faces we keep seeing in New Orleans were predominantly white instead of mostly brown and black. And it's clear that particularly among conservative commentators there's a failure of imagination and empathy when the lives that have to be imagined and empathized with are the lives of poor people.
You know that Hastert was reacting to images of poor people's flooded neighborhoods when he started picturing bulldozers on the move---Think he's ever read the opening chapter of Seinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath?---and revulsion at the poverty he glimpsed moved him more than an innate pragmatism.
And based on his throwing Los Angeles and San Francisco into the discussion, cities that so far lately haven't needed massive amounts of federal aid, while forgetting to mention all those parts of Jeb Bush's Florida built where they make easy targets for the hurricane gods and which over the last dozen years or so have benefited from billions of dollars of other state's taxpayers' money with no one suggesting that the residents should pack up and move someplace where there is no pesky bad weather or inhospitable geography, it's not unreasonable or unfair to infer that Hastert resents the people of New Orleans for their habit of voting Democratic as much as their need for the Feds to open the national checkbook.
Lot of the talk of letting New Orleans die is wishful thinking.
But I suspect that as ugly and loathesome as Hastert's heart is, his thinking here is motivated more by the reflexive urge of Republicans to come to the aid of their Party's leader.
Save George Bush From Blame!
The horrors in New Orleans aren't a result of bad budgetmaking decisions, a stupid and failed war sucking up money, manpower, and machinery, an incompetent leadership up and down the line, and a President who is intellectually and emotionally not up to the job of guiding the nation through a time of crisis.
Nope. It's all the fault of those people's stubbornness and their refusal to accept responsibility.
That word, "responsibility," is the key to their thinking. Republicans only use it when they are talking about cutting federal help for poor people. They never use it when they are talking about Bush, or themselves.
The same craven desire to duck responsibility is behind FEMA's Brown's blaming the people who couldn't get out of New Orleans in time for their own troubles.
"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave [he said judgmentally] but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans"...
"And to find people still there is just heart-wrenching to me because, you know, the mayor did everything he could to get them out of there.
"So, we've got to figure out some way to convince people that whenever warnings go out it's for their own good," Brown said. "Now, I don't want to second guess why they did that. My job now is to get relief to them."
His job now. No mention of his job before.
Brown is in a double-bind. He has to protect his boss Bush, and he needs to cover his own ass. Must be hard for him to stifle the urge to yell, "But they took away the money I needed to do the job!"
Fortunately, there are all those poor people and Democrats to blame.
Thanks to loyal reader Mac Magillicuddy for the link to the CNN story on Brown.
Related reading: Wesley Pruden thinks Hastert has given New Orleans the best news it's had all week:
A remark like that from a yankee politician is all the resurrection inspiration the Big Easy could ask for.
Sounds clever, but it's just part of another conservative's effort to get George Bush off the hook. See Pruden's column in the Jewish World News.
Related blogging: destor23 at the TPMCafe makes the case for rebuilding New Orleans right where it is.
The lede on an AP story on the Yahoo news page:
NEW ORLEANS - Ragtag armies of the desperate and hungry begged for help, corpses rotted along flooded sidewalks and bands of armed thugs thwarted fitful rescue efforts as Americans watched the Big Easy dissolve before their eyes..
The story itself is short and concerned mainly with explosions of unknown origins that may very well have been accidental, fallout from the storm or the flooding or the evacuation of people whose job it was to keep watch on whatever it was that exploded and see it doesn't explode. But following that lede, the news of the fires sounds like a continuation of the chaos and violence and death, with even the implication that the explosions were the work of vandals or other armed thugs, and further evidence that the Big Easy is dissolving before our eyes.
(Note: AP has updated the story. It's no longer short and the lede's been changed. The city isn't dissolving. As of noon, though, AP is reporting that the fires have deepened the sense that the city is collapsing, which I guess isn't as dire as dissolving.)
There has been a lot of talk and speculation in the news and on many blogs about how New Orleans is done for. I am not there. I haven't talked to anyone who is there. What I know of what's going on in New Orleans is what most everybody else who is not there knows---parts of the story.
We are being handed pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle and trying to assemble them in our heads to form a complete picture. Of course lots of pieces are missing. Every piece has flat sides so we're each free to put any one piece up against any other. We're all putting together different puzzles and comparing the results so far.
But I have a lot of pieces that show that the core of the City is pretty much dry and intact. The water didn't get that high in the older parts of New Orleans because the people who built the city three hundred years ago put it on the highest ground they could find. Elsewhere the water levels are going down, the troops are on the way, money and relief will follow. Things are still awful. People are in terrible trouble. But none of my pieces show that the City itself has been wiped out.
Whole neighborhoods have been.
But the City's main reason for being hasn't disappeared. It's a port and an important port and talk of "moving" New Orleans is plain stupid unless people suggesting it are also suggesting moving the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.
The City is still there. It's a wreck. But it will be rebuilt. Chicago was rebuilt. San Francisco, Galveston, Johnstown, and London were rebuilt. Lisbon was rebuilt.
All of them suffered as badly or worse than New Orleans and all of them survived, having had to overcome the added disadvantages of not having 21st Century technology to work with and engineering skills to draw on and not being able to rely for help on nation-wide and world-wide aid and recovery agencies.
I am not being unrealistically optimistic. I know it's going to take years and years for the City to recover. The next few months, with no electricity, clean water, or working sewers, with tens of thousands of people having no homes to return to and they and many more having no jobs either, will be much worse than the storm itself. I know that many residents' lives are ruined and they won't bounce back.
But I'm beginning to feel that I'm witnessing a journalistic cliche unfolding more than I am being told the actual story.
Journalists are trained in cliches and conventions as thoroughly as Hollywood filmmakers. It used to be a truism that every reporter had an unfinished novel in her desk drawer (later, on her hard drive). Nowdays she's as likely to have an unsold screenplay, and I think her prospects are better for it. Screenwriting is her true metier. The structure of a news story, especially a big story that unfolds over days or weeks, has much more in common with the structure of a screenplay than it does with any novel.
The two main points of similarity are:
1. It's always darkest before the dawn.
2. The cavalry always arrives in time.
In the American journalistic tradition, all stories have happy endings, even stories that seem to have ended tragically all around---that's why the idiotic word closure won't die the ignominious death it deserves.
If the cavalry didn't get there in time, we're assured that it will next time, when we're the ones who'll need them, and we're solaced with the final image of our own narrow escapes and rescues.
Stories that won't close, that won't end happily, if not with the cavalry arriving, then with "closure," drive the Media to despair, frustration, and, finally, boredom. This happened with the tsunami. It's happening in Iraq.
So I can't help feeling that the Media is already working its way toward the happy ending in New Orleans.
The disaster occurs, the plucky common folk react with stoicism and bravery at first and the handsome and courageous rescue workers do their best, but then the situation begins to change for the worse. The Indians appear on the hill. Sorry, gangs of armed thugs appear in the streets. Violence. Supplies run out. The plucky survivors are cut off. The city is dissolving!
New Orleans is doomed!
But look, over there!
The Cavalry is on the way!
Pretty soon order will be restored. The water will go down. The plucky survivors will be rescued. The news will be full of pictures of loved ones reuniting and big strong National Guardsmen handing stuffed animals to wide-eyed and adoring children. Presidents Bush the First and Clinton will announce how much money is on its way---an amazing amount, an unimaginable amount, an amount that restores your faith in the generosity and goodness and decency of your fellow Americans.
And then the current President will appear on the scene, looking grim but resolute in the company of soldiers, firefighters, and engineers all chosen for how well they resemble the hero Karl Rove wants voters to imagine George Bush to be.
Cut to shots of people moving back into their homes and business owners turning over the CLOSED signs in their shop windows and looking hopefully out at lines of decent folk come to buy their goods and wares and swap stories of how they survived Katrina.
And that'll be it. A year from now there'll be stories about how New Orleans has come back. Five years from now another one. Another in ten years---twenty five---fifty.
Probably somewhere along the line someone will write a book or make a documentary and we'll learn the real, whole story and be able to see how close the jigsaw puzzles we assembled resembled the real picture. We'll know just how close New Orleans came to being wiped off the map.
My guess is, about as close as Chicago in 1871.