Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday Reading

  • Carl Hiaasen on what Jeb! was going to say after Hurricane Wilma.

    My fellow Floridians,

    Let me begin by taking token responsibility for the delays in delivering supplies to areas hit hard by Hurricane Wilma. The effort could have been swifter and better organized.

    But, hey, didn’t I warn everybody to keep 72 hours’ worth of supplies on hand? Didn’t I tell you to build a 150-gallon gasoline depot in your backyard?

    Still, I know that millions of you still have no electricity, no food and no fuel in your cars — and I’d like to assure you that the situation is improving rapidly.

    I’d like to, but I can’t. The truth is, you’re screwed for now.

    This morning I spoke with executives of Florida Power & Light, who sounded like they’d been drinking heavily. They said they’re awaiting a large shipment of Leggos and rubber bands so that they can repair the substations supplying power to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

    When I pressed for a timetable, the FPL officials explained that electricity would be restored on a ”grid-by-grid” basis, using the same giant dart board left over from Hurricane Andrew.

    Obviously, these are difficult times. Florida has been through something like 83 hurricanes in the last 14 months, causing approximately $987 jillion in losses — and that’s not including the fraudulent claims.

    A major concern is, of course, the fuel supply. The good news is that South Florida has plenty of gas. The bad news is that we can’t get it out of the ground.

    Apparently, service stations actually need a flow of electricity to operate the gasoline pumps. It would have been nice if somebody had told me sooner.

    Next time, I promise, we’ll rent truckloads of exorbitantly overpriced generators from politically connected vendors and provide them to gas stations in advance of the storm.

    Since I’ve been getting calls from the travel industry, let me take this opportunity to urge tourists not to cancel their vacations to South Florida. The weather is fantastic, the beaches are gorgeous and the traffic is, for obvious reasons, exceptionally light.

    You will need to bring your own siphon, ice, refreshments and possibly a large-caliber handgun to protect yourself from desperate civilians.

    Speaking of desperation, many of you are listening to me now in your car, waiting in line for $20 worth of high-octane that’ll barely get you home. Some of you may even be trying to put your foot through the radio, you’re so pissed off.

    All I can say is: Who the heck knew?

    Wilma was no Katrina. It was supposed to blow down a few trailers, not cripple the infrastructures of our three most overpopulated counties.

    Only days earlier, I’d bragged to a congressional panel about how fabulously prepared for hurricanes we were. Florida knows the drill, I said. Don’t worry about us.

    Now you turn on the TV — if you’re lucky enough to have juice — and there’s bedlam in the streets. How do you think that makes me look?

    A few so-called experts say they aren’t surprised that Wilma caused such a mess. They say it was inevitable, with six million people crammed onto the tip of a low-lying peninsula in a hurricane zone.

    I’d like to promise that we’ll do a better job of managing coastal development in the future, but who am I kidding? We don’t have the stones to say enough is enough. We’ll let ’em keep on building subdivisions until every last acre is gone.

    In other words, you don’t want to be around when the Cat 5 hits.

    Finally, I know some of you were nervous to see my brother fly in last week for a tour of the storm damage. Let me assure you that there will be no repeat of what happened — or didn’t happen — on the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

    So far, FEMA has done a stellar job on the Wilma front. For example, none of the relief supplies set aside for South Florida have been sent to Guam or even Utah by mistake.

    Yes, there have been delays, bad information and mass confusion. Too many distribution sites have run short of ice and water, leaving thousands of people angry and empty-handed.

    But don’t blame the federal government, especially not my brother. Haven’t you been reading the polls? Leave the poor guy alone.

    You want to blame somebody for Wilma’s mess, blame me. Or better yet, blame yourselves for not listening to me. Didn’t I tell every homeowner to install an industrial-sized walk-in freezer with a propane-powered ice-making machine?

    A long road lies ahead. Just remember that today will be about the same as yesterday, tomorrow will be no different than today, and next week will probably be the same dull, grueling blur.

    As your governor and the leader of hurricane recovery, I’d like to urge Floridians not to get too discouraged, depressed or homicidal. I’d like to tell you that, but I can’t.

    This is the absolute pits. I am so glad to be up here in Tallahassee, you have no idea.

    And the best part is that Jeb! can’t run for office again, so he doesn’t have to act like he actually gives a damn.

  • Adam Nagourney on the future of the Republicans’ agenda.

    After “this disastrous year for Republicans,” in the words of the G.O.P. consultant Joe Gaylord, some Republicans were suggesting this White House would be lucky to revive the ambitious legislative agenda Mr. Bush presented 10 months ago, much less achieve the permanent Republican governing coalition that many argued began to take shape with the election of Ronald Reagan.

    It may be premature to suggest, as some Democrats and historians have, that this ambitious plan is now dashed; these political realignments take place over decades, and typically can be identified only after the passage of time. And surely, until recently, President Bush had done nothing but strengthen his own party. Still, even some Republicans were suggesting that the Bush presidency could set back, rather than advance, the Republican Party as it seeks its goal.

    It’s unlikely that given Mr. Bush’s well-known stubborn streak — some would say density — he will change course or restructure his White House. While tenacity is an admirable quality to some degree; after all, he was re-elected by conveying his “steadfastness” versus Kerry’s perceived waffling, it can be a debilitating and cumbersome attribute. So notes Dan Balz in this story in the Washington Post.

    The president’s advisers recognize the reality in which they find themselves. “What the public wants is back-to-basics governance and decision making,” presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said yesterday. “This is not a situation in which it changes overnight or that there’s a ‘Hail Mary’ pass that changes the dynamic. . . . There’s not a magic bullet.”

    That assessment comes after one of the toughest weeks of Bush’s presidency that included the perjury and obstruction charges against Libby, an embarrassing defeat over the nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and the 2,000th U.S. death in the war in Iraq.


    A Republican strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer a bark-off analysis of Bush’s problems, was far gloomier, noting that the situation facing Bush is about as bad as it can get. “What’s in front of him are very big structural problems,” he said.

    Ticking off a list that includes a looming winter energy crisis because of high heating oil and natural gas prices, an immigration fight that could further divide his party, negative perceptions of the economy despite strong growth numbers, and overall pessimism about the direction of the country, he added: “It’s not like it’s a one-shot deal where they hit bottom and then bounce back. I’m not sure they’ve reached bottom yet.”

  • Want to get richer quick? In Ohio, it’s easy. Just be rich to start with, then give a lot of money to a Republican presidential campaign. The Toledo Blade begins a four-part series on how it works.

    They were executives, lobbyists, evangelical Christians, political veterans and rookies, and a rare-coin dealer from Maumee. They bankrolled a president.

    Thirty Ohioans collected at least $4.1 million for George W. Bush’s re-election campaign last year – exceeding Sen. John Kerry’s entire take from the state. They raised $2.4 million more for the Republcan National Committee.

    They are Ohio’s “Pioneers” and “Rangers,” President Bush’s most prolific fund-raisers. Most Ohio voters have never heard of them, but the White House knows them well.

    They have sat on crucial policy committees and won choice appointments. In the last five years, their firms have conducted more than a billion dollars of business with the state and the federal government.

    One was Tom Noe.

    Prepare to meet the rest.

    The Blade assembled a team of six reporters to investigate how the Bush-Cheney campaign raised millions to win the Buckeye State.

    Using raw data, the reporters assembled portraits of each of the top fund-raisers’ poltical donations. They also built a database of checks cut by the state over the last five years and mined federal databases to track the state and federal dollars paid to the firms of Ohio’s Pioneers and Rangers.

    Over the next four days, The Blade will introduce you to the 29 men and women who engineered a fund-raising landslide for Mr. Bush in Ohio and helped deliver him a narrow victory in the state. The series will show:

    # How several of those fund-raisers tied their fortunes to government spending, sometimes through unbid contracts.

    # How Republican leaders, including future Pioneers and Rangers, built what was a ragged state party into a rich, well-tuned machine. The GOP has dominated Ohio politics for a decade and a half and laid the groundwork for Mr. Bush’s 2004 victory.

    # How a half-dozen Democratic fund-raisers in Ohio corralled at least $750,000 for Sen. John Kerry’s losing presidential bid, and what they stood to gain if he had won.

    # How the increased mingling of money and politics raises questions about the electoral process, and what experts call Americans’ best hopes for influencing public policy without writing or collecting large checks.

    A year after Ohio’s 20 electoral votes clinched Mr. Bush’s re-election – and only days after a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Noe on felony charges of laundering cash to the President’s campaign – a Blade investigation shows the power of money along the Ohio Trail.

    Here are the links to today’s articles:

  • Noe’s Generosity.
  • Ohio Bush donors richly rewarded.
  • Money, morals intermingle in contributions.
  • GOP finds a partner in charter school CEO.
  • That should keep you busy for a while.