"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
One reason for the dismal federal performance is Bush's disdain for government. To him, it's bloated and for chumps who can't provide for themselves — with some exceptions. Bush signed spending bills filled with pork, finding $454 million for his Alaskan Republicans to build two bridges to nowhere in Alaska but not for the levees everyone but him knew were cracking. His administration intervenes but only when there are a lot of cameras and potential political gain, such as in the Terri Schiavo case, when Bush rushed back from his ranch in March to do so. And saying "it's your money, not the government's," he cut taxes for the wealthy, which means less money for boring projects like disaster relief. If Bush cared about governing, he would have never appointed Michael Brown, the failed director of a trade association that ran horse shows, to run FEMA, which the president folded into the Homeland Security Department. That agency has little to show for itself other than an ineffective color chart and long lines at the airport as arthritic old ladies remove their shoes.
Here's one for the Hypocrisy Hall of Fame: At the same time the administration is putting Karl Rove's "pin-the-blame-on-the-locals" plan into effect, President Bush told reporters gathered at a cabinet meeting today, "I think that one of the things that people want us to do here is play a blame game. We've got to solve problems. We're problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong. What I'm interested in is helping save lives." How noble. A week and thousands of lives too late... but noble. He makes it sound as if anyone interested in trying to figure out what went so horribly wrong in the aftermath of Katrina is somehow impeding the recovery. As if we can't help the victims and analyze the debacle at the same time. As if any time spent by reporters ferreting out the truth -- and by Congress overseeing -- would otherwise be spent tossing sandbags on the levee, disinfecting the Superdome, or driving evacuees to Houston. As if those seeking answers will have blood on their hands.
The Katrina disaster in a nutshell: A storm that had been listed for years as #3 on America's list of "Worst Possible Things That Could Happen" arrives in New Orleans to find levees unprepared because massive budget cuts stripped away any ability to repair and augment them. The storm finds FEMA, the national agency tasked to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters, run by Bush friend Michael Brown, a guy who got fired from his last job representing the rights of Arabian horse owners. The storm finds a goodly chunk of the Louisiana National Guard sitting in a desert 7,000 miles away with their high-water Humvees parked beside them. The storm finds that our institutional decades-old unwillingness to address poverty issues left tens of thousands of people unable to get out of the way of the ram.
Instead of the much-celebrated American can-do machine that promises to bring freedom and prosperity to less fortunate people abroad, we have seen a callous official incompetence that puts even Third World rulers to shame. The well-reported litany of mistakes by the Bush administration in failing to prevent and respond to Katrina's destruction grew longer with each hour's grim revelation from the streets of an apocalyptic New Orleans. [...] None of this is an oversight, or simple incompetence. It is the result of a campaign by most Republicans and too many Democrats to systematically vilify the role of government in American life. Manipulative politicians have convinced lower- and middle-class whites that their own economic pains were caused by "quasi-socialist" government policies that aid only poor brown and black people - even as corporate profits and CEO salaries soared.