Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina Redux or What's Wrong With Republicans

Andrew Sullivan has a dead-on piece about the Bush Administration and the current Republican party in general. He reveals a party that is incompetent, prone to cronyism and anti-government. It's best to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts. First , on competence:

"What happened after Katrina hit — the complete failure of local, state and federal authorities to seize control of the situation — was not about right or left, Democrat or Republican. It was about simple competence.

Take the latest spin from the White House public relations operation, now in overdrive. The White House blames Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, for not specifically requesting federal troops to impose law and order (as opposed to search and rescue), and so clearing away legal hurdles for the federal government to help.

An anonymous source — Andy Card? Karl Rove? — told The New York Times: “Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?” Well, actually, at that point it was completely clear that the state authorities were overwhelmed and “lawlessness was the inevitable result”. Emergencies such as Katrina are precisely why the federal executive branch exists. It exists to take control and do things swiftly. Instead, the White House worried about gender politics and public relations while people drowned and corpses littered the streets of a city."

The he talks about cronyism:

Then there’s cronyism. We now all know that Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), had little or no experience of managing major emergencies. Neither had his deputy. Nor his predecessor, when appointed. But they were all Bush campaign operatives and cronies. The Senate approved his appointment after a 42-minute hearing.

What does it tell you — that the last two Fema heads were college room-mates? And that the previous head was already down on the Gulf coast last week, advising “private clients” on helping with the recovery? You don’t think any of the $100 billion in aid might end up in the hands of a few well-connected businessmen, do you? Meanwhile, even conservative commentators had to concede that Brown was in way over his head. He’d even padded his CV. In normal times, this kind of cronyism is not exactly shocking. It happens all the time — in administrations Democrat and Republican. Bill Clinton was a master at it. But after 9/11, to place a complete hack in charge of response to a national emergency is criminal negligence.

I would agree with that last statement. If FEMA and Homeland Security can't help during a natural disaster, God help us when another terrorist attack strikes.

Finally, he tackles conservatism:

Some have argued this past week that the underlying problem is that America doesn’t have enough government spending or a big enough government. Given the explosion of spending under Bush — the biggest increase since Lyndon Johnson — this makes no sense at all. The US has spent billions on homeland security — and what we now know is that if Al-Qaeda had blown up a couple of levees in New Orleans, they could have killed far more people than they did on 9/11.

The issue is not how big government is, but how effective it is. Conservatism has never meant abandoning the basic task of government: the common defence and law and order. Even classical liberals, like yours truly, who like their government extremely lean, have no problem with spending what it takes to secure basic infrastructure and a police and military to protect private property. That basic infrastructure didn’t exist last week.

I think that conservatism has listened too much to the sweet sounds anti-government people like Grover Norquist who has talked about making government small enough to "drown it in a bathtub." He desires to make government weak and we have seen the results amid those waiting for relief in New Orleans. True conservatives do want a small goverment, but they want that government to be efficient and competent. If a government can't do something as basic as provide law and order, then we are all in big trouble.

All in all, a very good read.


At 7:41 PM, Blogger Paul Wartenberg said...

Every point Sullivan made were good ones.

By the way, has anyone heard from Grover "Drown It" Norquist lately? I'm not so sure he'd be real popular to have on the talk show circuit right now...


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