Thursday, September 22, 2005

Column 50 (National) - Katrina

Hurricane Katrina has ripped the façade off the Bush Administration as easily as it ripped the roof off the Superdome. There are a few true believers for whom their hero is right and who would not be shaken in the face of divine revelation. Aside from those however, it is hard to imagine how anyone who has been a Bush supporter can maintain their position in light of (a) the Federal Government’s unbelievably inept response to the cataclysm and (b) the President’s characteristic dissembling, spinning, and irresponsibly taking care of his friends.

Since the Nixon impeachment, the GOP, with the complicity of much of the media has done a masterful job of blaming the Left for everything from poverty to abortion to drugs. Indeed, in the wake of Katrina, according to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, the Department of Justice sent an email to US Attorneys that can only have had the intent of gathering “evidence” to blame environmental groups for the hurricane damage. The difference this time is that, unlike the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, the biased recount in Florida, and other concealable lies, the Administration’s ineptitude in responding to Katrina was impossible to cover up. Notwithstanding that, the Right would have us believe that, somehow, the President’s “cutting his vacation short” by a couple of days after days of non-action, his rushing Condy Rice to the Gulf from her New York vacation, and his ringing endorsement of his pal “Brownie” for “doing a heck of a job” constitute a response. Never mind that Brown had no qualifications for the job, even after lying about his experience. Now, of course, the President would have us believe that he barely knew “Brownie,” just as he “barely knew” Kenny-Boy Lay after the Enron scandal broke.

Now the Administration is rushing to cover their tracks with money the government doesn’t have – the President says we will do whatever it takes, but he has said nothing about how we will pay for it. The plan they are designing turns the Gulf Coast into a field day for the usual Rightist agendas and cronies – Halliburton for rebuilding, private school vouchers to undermine public education, abandonment of environmental regulations, abolition of wage standards, and yet another tax cut for the wealthiest.

And most astonishingly all this will be overseen not by experienced planners or development, but by Karl Rove, the quintessential political operative whose involvement in the Valerie Plame affair has never been accounted for.

The most damning part of all this is what it exposes about how little this President and this Administration understands about how the vast majority of Americans live. The President’s mother goes to the Astrodome and sees it as fortunate for those forced to stay there in squalor, separated from their families. Tom DeLay goes there and asks a young African-American child if it’s not like camp. After 9/11, the wealthiest victims got more compensation than those who were less well off. Here those with means got out and are staying with family or in hotels while the poor get the scraps.

When money is on the line, cronies always come first for this President, who calls himself “the CEO President,” but who has a consistent track record of crashing and burning every time he had something to run. I doubt that anyone but the true believers takes seriously any more the President as a “uniter” or his “culture of life,” but if he has a shred of decency Mr. Bush will see that in a culture of life, all human life must be valued. This country, and the 90% of its people who earn less than six-figure incomes needs compassion, competence, integrity, and heart. What we have is cronyism, poverty, and a government that cares only for the 10% that fund it and its pet projects.

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