In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the race to pin blame on preferred targets began quickly, in a race to seemingly jump ahead of people’s perceptions so that those perceptions could be forged. Facts be damned, of course. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and I hope everyone who failed in this catastrophe ultimately pays the appropriate political price. My biggest fear, though, is that no one will pay.
As the most obvious example (and don’t worry, I’m not going to be one-sided in my criticism), President Bush made supportive comments about FEMA Director Michael Brown. I don’t need to rehash the facts of Mr. Brown’s incompetent handling of his agency’s response to Katrina, but it’s clear that President Bush is off-base. The President appointed an inexperienced, ineffective individual into the agency mandated to respond to the very type of crisis President Bush has repeatedly warned us could happen: the destruction of an American city. In this case, it doesn’t matter that the cause was a hurricane rather than a terrorist weapon. The result is still devastation. President Bush failed at what he promised he’d do and now seems inclined to avoid any accountability for himself or his appointees. Since that’s no different than most other failures in his tenure, an appropriate response should come from the country, whether through its representatives or the represented.
What we’re seeing instead is little more than politics as usual for the last half-decade. (Longer, really, but I’m focusing on President Bush’s time in office for this specific example.) Consider:
In a letter to one Republican, Reid pressed for a wide-ranging investigation and asked: “How much time did the president spend dealing with this emerging crisis while he was on vacation? Did the fact that he was outside of Washington, D.C., have any effect on the federal government’s response?”
Wonderful. Our country faces arguably the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history, the president’s administration botches the federal response, despite years of rhetoric to the contrary, and the best the opposition party can do is to attack the president’s inability to manage public perceptions? Pathetic.
This is a perfect example of why, despite thinking President Bush is mostly incompetent and voting for the other guy twice against him, I’m not a Democrat either. President Bush lacks any ability to imagine how his actions might be perceived. (The other explanation, that he doesn’t care, seems less plausible.) At a time of crisis, he stayed on his ranch and even engaged in a photo-op of him playing a guitar. While people died. Etc., etc. He’s clearly in a cocoon, which is a clear political fault in a time of crisis. But to spread the nonsense that he was “on vacation”, the implied meaning I read into Sen. Reid’s comment not unfounded based on other ramblings I’ve read from the folks who can think of nothing more than hating President Bush? That’s pathetic. The president is “on vacation” but he’s never not the president. He’s never not monitoring what’s going on in the nation. He’s never out of communication range for whatever is necessary. To pretend otherwise is either willful ignorance or blind disregard for reality. Neither is a winning strategy able to convince those who disagree that they should suddenly agree.
Ultimately, I don’t see anything changing after this colossal government failure (federal, state, and local – Democrat and Republican – blah, blah, blah). President Bush showed no intention of holding anyone accountable in his first term. I don’t see that changing. The voters will have to correct this at the ballot box, but since the next meaningful election is still fourteen months away, I have little faith that our collective memories will suffice the next time we pull the ballot lever. Perhaps some people feel safer with half-measures and showmanship, not to mention reduced civil liberties. I don’t. I want to be safer, not just feel safer. I’m not hopeful.