Joe Conason points out that there is much more to the failure of the Bush administration to deal with a natural disaster than just the usual targets of blame such as cronyism or sycophancy.
But the FEMA phonies stand as symbols of far broader trouble in the Bush administration. When the Republicans first took over in 2001, and for many months thereafter, they assured us that they were the “grown-ups,” and that they were “in charge.” After 9/11, their flacks returned to this self-congratulatory theme, boasting that all Americans felt more secure and protected by Bush than they would if Al Gore were in the Oval Office. Their standard of accountability is to award the nation’s highest decoration for public service to George Tenet and Jerry Bremer, as if nobody had noticed their notorious failures.
Pretenders such as these cannot extricate us from a debilitating war, nor can they rebuild the nation they destroyed; they have no idea how to allocate resources against terrorism, nor how to prepare for the disasters that will surely come. What the Republicans in power can do is set up photo ops, repeat spin points, concoct hollow slogans about “compassionate conservatism,” and sidestep responsibility by whining about “the blame game.”
Four years ago, as we contemplated potential threats from the enemies of civilization, it was impossible to conceive of the vast damage that our own government would inflict upon America before those enemies could strike again. The danger from the perpetrators of 9/11 has not abated, and suddenly we know how vulnerable we remain — because the federal officials who have sworn to defend us, beginning with the president, have neither the character nor the competence to fulfill that oath.
Remember the good old days when the mantra was “Character Counts,” and billboards across the country told us that nothing was more important than having the strength of character to stand up for what you believed and to take responsibility for your actions? These were not-so-subtle digs at the Clinton administration and the president, for he was found lacking by the trembling jowls and shaking fingers of the nannies of the Republican party; America was a global embarrassment for having the Leader of the Free World be a man who liked to get his horn honked at the office. As Joe points out, whoever thought we would get nostalgic about 9/11, when we could unite as a country against a common enemy and the world was with us? Bill Clinton has his faults, and Dog knows that if I’d had a blog during his administration I would have had a field day with Monica and sex in the Oval Office. It all seems so trivial now.
It is too bad that it takes a real tragedy to awaken the country to the reality that running a country — especially one as rich and arrogant as ours — isn’t just about the power and being able to tell the pilot when you’re ready for take-off. It isn’t about the fun of sitting in the big chair and being able to declare war on a sovereign nation because you’re pissed at their dictator. Power without discipline is a weapon of mass destruction, and so far this administration has yet to demonstrate that they get the concept. The fact that we the people learned this five years too late — and a year after the chance to reconsider — is one of life’s hard lessons.
True to form, the chances that Bush will fire the people responsible for the poor performance after the hurricane are nil. After all, the people responsible for the disaster in Iraq not only kept their jobs but got promoted and the Medal of Freedom. The preponderance of the evidence shows that someone very high up in the Bush White House — Karl Rove, perhaps — leaked confidential information to a reporter to exact revenge for making the president look bad (in spite of the fact that he does that quite well on his own), yet Mr. Rove is still employed as a Deputy Chief of Staff. While it would be the right thing to do to hold these people accountable, it won’t happen.
It may sound heartless, but I hope the president doesn’t fire these miscreants. I want them around for the nation to examine them at close detail and hope that finally the voters will wake up to the shitty job they’ve done with running the country and therefore deliver the House and Senate in 2006 and the presidency in 2008 to the Democrats with candy and a stripper.
Of course, that all depends on the Democrats growing a spine. If they don’t, then we will deserve whatever happens. As someone once said, 90% of getting something done is just showing up.