In ways and with methods more powerful than any speech yet made, the Bush administration has finally succeeded in demonstrating one of the most important tenets of the Republican philosophy: that government is surely the problem, not the solution.
If those devastated by Katrina needed any more proof that the last place they should have looked for assistance in their time of most desperate need was Washington, they have it in the absolute abortion that was the response from federal agencies, from the administration and from the President himself.
(One wonders if he’ll be able to enjoy another vacation in Crawford Texas, steeped as it will no doubt be in memories of the moment when the entire world went looking for leadership and found it literally on holiday. One worries that actually, he’ll probably have no problems with it at all.)
From the criminal time wasting of spending the first week screwing around deciding which agency, which jurisdiction, or which authority was either responsible or prepared to sign off to another, the south sank as the leadership fiddled around.
From the unconscionable decision NOT to send the nearby (at anchor off the Gulf Coast according to the Chicago Tribune) U.S.S Bataan in to help – a ship equipped with six operating rooms, hundreds of hospital beds and the technology to produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day, to the President’s own opinion conveyed through Diane Sawyer that any looting – be it for plasma screen TV’s or a tin of tuna – be considered a crime subject to punishment, each and every decision and non-decision has revealed the government of the United States of America to be at best incompetent, at worst, deliberately so.
When the appropriately funereal speed with which the President reacted to the Katrina crisis is compared to the urgency with which he flew to the bedside of brain dead Terry Schiavo, the priorities of this administration are as clear as the Mississippi is muddy – and now glowing red with the blood and human detritus that will be food for the catfish for decades to come.
But this President has always been more interested in the unborn or the near-dead than with the living or the suffering. While this government has sieved off the youngest and most vulnerable of the next generation of soldiers to fight terrorism thousands of miles away (“Better than fighting it at home” goes the contemptuous thinking) it’s now clear that terrorism probably couldn’t be fought at home – so decimated and depleted are the supports to genuine homeland security.
So what do Americans get for their tax dollars? Well, they don’t get a lot of disaster relief (at least, not if they’re actually living in the disaster; those who’ve lost business, property, and valuable commodities will no doubt be bailed out faster than a stranded Louisianan can out-swim an alligator) they don’t get to get on with their lives after serving an agreed upon time in the military (unless they never signed up in the first place, or in times past were able to avoid a draft – those folks can pretty much do whatever they wish) they don’t get to have a Supreme Court that reflects and balances the political make-up of the country (unless they’re right wing republicans – in which case, it’s party time for their team; btw: how quickly was John Roberts sent in to replace the late Rehnquist? Why, overnight appears to be the time frame – the President can move when it matters… to him) and they don’t get anything resembling affordable and equal access to health care (unless they already have enough money to actually be able to afford it out of pocket – then it’s free; sort of like all the free stuff Paris Hilton gets, that’s the way it works.)
But they do get a President obsessed with the morals and values of the population. They do get a government that in controlling the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court will soon be able to control a woman’s uterus, a human’s non-functioning brain, and the futures and fortunes of those who would have wished to marry within their own sex.
It’s when it comes to their outsides, their actual physical beings, their lives, their health, their future and on the most basic level, their ability to survive, that this government has failed utterly.
The proof is positive that it’s the private sector that can best help during a disaster, which is fortunate because the private sector was the only one that did. When you can organize Hollywood into a disaster relief telethon faster than you can get a sandwich to a starving Southerner, something is very definitely out of whack.
I’ve been reluctant to write about Katrina – the anticipation of Katrina, Katrina as the storm began, Katrina at full fury, Katrina in its aftermath… Katrina and what Katrina has meant to the people and to the President who ignored Katrina, and those Katrina has devastated beyond all normal human comprehension.
After all, so much has been written, so much has been said and virtually all of it – even that which has emerged from sources more accustomed to congratulating the President than vilifying him – has said the same thing: a criminal screw up, a monumental show of indifference and a now clearly defined set of priorities that in lack of action speaks volumes. “You say it best,” goes the song. “when you say nothing at all.”
And nothing is what the President has been saying – even when he speaks.
But from everyone else a tsunami of words – a storm of anger, a hurricane of emotional reaction. The levee (so to speak) has burst.
From The New York Times to FOX News, from the left to the right and everywhere in between, the President and those who advise him have been recognized in a way that even a thousand or so American dead, ten thousand or so Iraqi and Afghani dead, thousands upon thousands of injured, maimed and orphaned humans of all races (hard to tell the nationality of limbs blown off bodies – equality at its most fundamental) devastated and destroyed in a desert region in the name of a war that was mounted on a lie, couldn’t do: the pitiful, careless, unforgivable response to Katrina has framed this Presidency and this President in a way that will remain legend long after the history books that tell the story have long dried up and blown away.
The only good news in sight as the bad news mounts (“It’s going to be about as ugly of a scene as I think you can imagine” said Home land Security Chief Michael Chertoff, in referring to the now thousands of corpses rescuers expect to find) is that the truth is now out. The indifference, the laziness, the contempt for those who ‘chose to stay’, the non-existent plan of rescue and support – and ware the finger pointing to local agencies: whatever their responsibility, by Monday, they were literally underwater – the unconscionable nerve of two former presidents appealing to the citizenry to financially bail out the rescue effort… all of it reveals a truth long ignored and long in coming.
And even the effort involved in draining the cities, rescuing the living and burying the dead won’t distract Americans from the underlying problem for long; and it isn’t the problem of a city below sea level – it’s the problem of a President beneath contempt.