JABbering Stooge

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Better late than never

Strumming the Guitar While New Orleans Drowns

I miss having a real leader rather than a pretender to the throne as Leader of the Free World. I miss those heady days when the most pressing issues were what to do with the budget surplus and the mainstream media’s running tally of the number of women the president had boinked. But most importantly, I miss having a federal government that actually worked, even in the midst of a natural disaster of epic proportions.

Sadly, none of the leadership qualities we expect out of those we send to Washington – ostensibly to represent us – is present in the current crop of politicians – especially in today’s Republican party. Instead, what we get is graft, corruption, denial and recrimination.

Which brings me to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Before I begin, I would remind any right-wingers sharpening their pencils to scream at me about politicizing a natural disaster that Neal Boortz has already used the tragedy to rail against gun control, pinning the blame for the looting and rapes on “Democrats and liberals [who] have been dedicated to the idea that only government should have guns.” Meanwhile, right-wing “Christian” group Repent America’s director Michael Marcavage was busy channeling Jerry Falwell – blaming homosexuals and abortion for the destruction wrought by the hurricane.

Want to know how badly this administration FUBAR-ed disaster mitigation efforts? In 1995, Congress passed, and Clinton approved, an Army Corps of Engineers project known as the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), spending $430 million to shore up levees and build pumping stations and providing an additional $50 million in local aid, according to an August 31 Editor & Publisher article. Bush, apparently convinced that everything Clinton did was evil and had to be reversed, ended up diverting much of the remaining $250 million slated to be spent on SELA to tax cuts for the upper 1% and to the war in Iraq – which, incidentally, is also where much of the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama National Guard were when Katrina made landfall last Monday.

State and local governments, knowing that they would quickly be overwhelmed, requested federal aid on August 28, and began evacuating those left behind in the storm – mostly those who were too poor or too sick to leave – the day after the levees broke. While the speed of evacuation certainly was not exemplary, it was a far cry better than FEMA, who apparently was sitting on its posterior waiting for Bush to give the go-ahead to take charge of the situation – when they weren’t actively sabotaging the state and local efforts by cutting the emergency communications lines and turning back relief supplies, according to Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.

And where was President Bush during all of this? Our little Nero was strumming on the guitar while New Orleans drowned.

For comparison purposes, when Hurricane Floyd struck North Carolina in 1999, Bill Clinton: a) wasn’t on vacation, b) didn’t have the North Carolina National Guard tied up in Kosovo, c) activated both FEMA and the National Guard prior to landfall so that they could hit the ground running, and d) didn’t wait five days to visit the affected areas. Imagine the outcry if he’d shown the same callous attitude that Bush has.

Sadly, the response to Hurricane Katrina is merely the latest example of Republican malfeasance. This is the same party that has written laws that facilitated the crimes at Enron and WorldCom. This is the same party that put consolidating power over educating Texas’ children. This is the same party that screams "Support the Troops" even as they cut VA benefits and underfund VA facilities. This is the same party that would turn this country into a theocracy. This is the same party that would bring about Grover Norquist’s dream of a government small enough “to drown in the bathtub.”

As a fellow blogger put it, “Don’t expect good government from a party that believes government is bad.”

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