Essential Reading Roundup
In a May 25, 2001 interview, Grover Norquist told National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Norquist got his wish. Democracy - and at least several thousand people, most of them Democrats, black, and poor - drowned last week in the basin of New Orleans. Our nation failed in its response, because for most of the past 25 years conservatives who don't believe in governance have run our government. As incompetent as George W. Bush has been in his response to the disaster in New Orleans, he wasn't the one who began the process that inevitably led to that disaster spiraling out of control. That would be Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan who began the deliberate and intentional destruction of the United States of America when he famously cracked (and then incessantly repeated): "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"Molly Ivins:
The Bush administration officials are in full blame-shifting mode: First, they announced repeatedly they don't want to "play the blame game." Then, they start blaming everybody else. According to The New York Times, Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett, White House communications director, have launched a campaign to blame local and state officials. The "woefully inadequate response," said "sources close to the White House," was the fault of "bureaucratic obstacles from state and local officials."Paul Krugman:
"They're feeding the public a line of bull and they're spinning, and people are dying down here," Mayor Ray Nagin said, talking about the feds. "It's politics, man, and they are playing games. ... They're out there spinning for the cameras. ... I don't want to see anybody do any more goddamned press conferences. ... Excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed. ... Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here! They're not here! It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamned crisis in the history of this country. People are dying."The mayor was in tears.
As Bloomberg News puts it, the agency's "upper ranks are mostly staffed with people who share two traits: loyalty to President George W. Bush and little or no background in emergency management." By now everyone knows FEMA's current head went from overseeing horse shows to overseeing the nation's response to disaster, with no obvious qualifications other than the fact that he was Mr. Allbaugh's college roommate. All that's missing from the Katrina story is an expensive reconstruction effort, with lucrative deals for politically connected companies, that fails to deliver essential services. But give it time - they're working on that, too.Newsweek :
Why did the administration make the same mistakes twice? Because it paid no political price the first time. Can the administration escape accountability again? Some of the tactics it has used to obscure its failure in Iraq won't be available this time. The reality of the catastrophe was right there on our TV's, although FEMA is now trying to prevent the media from showing pictures of the dead. And people who ask hard questions can't be accused of undermining the troops.
But the other factors that allowed the administration to evade responsibility for the mess in Iraq are still in place. The media will be tempted to revert to he-said-she-said stories rather than damning factual accounts. The effort to shift blame to state and local officials is under way. Smear campaigns against critics will start soon, if they haven't already. And raw political power will be used to block any independent investigation. Will this be enough to let the administration get away with another failure? Let's hope not: if the administration isn't held accountable for what just happened, it will keep repeating its mistakes. Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff will receive presidential medals, and the next disaster will be even worse.
Hurricane Katrina claimed her first political casualty Friday. Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, the federal disaster readiness and response agency, was sidelined from the largest disaster relief project in the nation’s history. Brown was recalled to Washington by his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. But a new Newsweek Poll suggests the post-Katrina political storm may just be rising. And her ultimate casualty could be President George W. Bush. In Katrina’s wake, the president’s popularity and job-approval ratings have dropped across the board. Only 38 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is doing his job overall, a record-low for this president in the Newsweek poll. [... And Congress too:] Reflecting the tarnished view of the administration, only 38 percent of registered voters say they would vote for a Republican for Congress if the Congressional elections were held today, while 50 say they would vote for a Democrat.William Rivers Pitt:
This has only just begun. The impact of hundreds of thousands of displaced people, who need jobs and homes and whose children need schooling, will slowly but surely begin to be felt. The psychological scars from the experience will begin to tell upon them. "We are more vulnerable now than before 9/11 because faith in the system is gone," reported Anne Gervasi from New Orleans. "No system can sustain itself as a viable entity when the citizenry are the walking wounded. Victims implode a system from within and expose its decay. This is the beginning of the end unless we can get a drastic change of philosophy and restore the government to a system 'by the people for the people.' Right now nobody down here believes we have that." What have the dead taught the living? Responsible and effective government matters. At this moment, we have neither. We are, simply put, on our own.Patrick Sabatier:
On the eve of the anniversary of September 11, 2001, it seems more and more, however, that August 29 is the anti-9/11. The al-Qaeda attack gave Bush the opportunity to demonstrate his "leadership" as well as a mandate (at least in the eyes of Americans) to launch a global crusade against terrorism by way of "preventative wars." The country united as never before against Bin Laden, out of a "patriotic" reflex. It supported - without any hand-wringing - not only Bush's ultraconservative foreign affairs policies, but also his economic, social, and moral policies.Norman Solomon:
Katrina has had the precisely opposite effect. The hurricane has shown the President to be incapable of "leadership" and an impotent Federal government unable to fulfill its functions of protecting citizens and anticipating crises. It has revived the country's social and racial fractures and divided it, in spite of the surge of solidarity towards the million refugees. Bush's policies are blamed, if only for the cost of the catastrophe - estimated as high as 200 billion dollars (ten times September 11's cost) - and the slowdown in economic growth. That makes it more difficult to continue reducing taxes and intervening abroad. In the United States, the political debate is suddenly refocusing on domestic problems, perhaps for a long time.
Four years after 9/11, those limits are less narrow than they were. But mass media and politicians still facilitate the destructive policies of the Bush administration. From Baghdad to New Orleans to cities and towns that will never make headlines in the national press, the dominant corporate priorities have made a killing. Those priorities hold sway not only for the Iraq war but also for the entire "war on terrorism." While military spending zooms upward, a downward slide continues for education, health care, housing, environmental protection, emergency preparedness and a wide array of other essentials. Across the United States, communities are suffering grim consequences. "Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war," Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967. The same statement is profoundly true in 2005.