Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Responsibility, Bush-Style

We did not hear Bush take responsibility. We heard Bush say he takes responsibility. That's all he's done: said the words. The words don't mean anything unless he changes what he's been doing. He hasn't changed anything. He hasn't fired the rest of the incompetent political flunkies at FEMA. He hasn't given new orders to get the recovery work done, and followed through to make sure they're carried out. He hasn't told Congress to pass legislation removing FEMA from Homeland Security, or rescinding the tax cuts to pay for this debacle. He hasn't apologized to the survivors or the families of the people who died. (That would be more talk, but at least it would be an acknowledgement that his mismanagement resulted in deaths.) He hasn't called for a truly independent investigation into FEMA. He hasn't proposed any recovery programs that would benefit the people who live in the hurricane zone. Unless he takes action, he hasn't taken responsibility. And he won't. I'd bet real money on that.

He hasn't even said he will take responsibility. People have been hearing what they want to hear, not what he actually said.

He said:

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility,"

This is one of those statements that ought to come in a jar labeled "Can you count the weasels?"

In simplest terms, he said:
1. Start me off at second base by blaming state and local government, too.
2. The federal government might, just might have have screwed up, a little bit. You know, you just can't get good help anymore.
3. I take responsibility if you can prove that my underlings screwed up. But then, of course, they're to blame.

Now, we all want to divide blame to include state and local government. It's part of our instinct to be fair. But the CRS report that Phoenix Woman linked shows that 100% of the responsibility for dealing with emergencies is federal.

And it's not hard to figure out why. Most Mayors got elected by the grace of the local real estate lobby and the Chamber of Commerce. They have good teeth and good hair, but very few are sophisticated enough to be able to figure out how to move 50,000 or more people. And their budgets are very small.

Governors tend to be better. But does anyone think Mike Huckabee or Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle a major disaster? They *are* major disasters.

The only people who can print dollars and move troops are the Feds. And that's why 100% of the responsibility and of the blame belongs with GW Bush.

He's trying to plea bargain is all. He has not accepted responsibility. As you point out, it shows.
I'm glad you mentioned "budget", Charles. That's the alligator in the street that all the critics of "state and local government" are ignoring.

To the people who say Mayor Nagin should have evacuated all the people, and gotten them farther away than the Superdome, I say: With what? 700 buses total, and considerably fewer drivers? How many round trips in how much time? How many more buses should the city of New Orleans have bought on the odd chance that they might need to evacuate every nondriver in the city some day? And how large a tax increase would the voters approve in order to stockpile those buses?

To the people who say it's Mayor Nagin's fault the Superdome shelter ran out of food, I say, how many days' worth of food should the city stockpile on the odd chance that thousands of people will be unable to return to their homes for weeks? And how large a tax increase would YOU vote for in order to stockpile those emergency supplies?

For starters.

The people who claim it's not the federal government's job to respond to a disaster need to re-read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. What part of the "promote the general welfare" doesn't apply to saving people from drowning or starving?
Spot on, MEC.

One of the central "ideas," if one can call it that, of Republicanism is that what is wrong with America has nothing to do with money; it is that certain people need to take more responsibility.

Well, I am a strong believer in responsibility. I think we are in the mess we are in because the average person has renounced his/her responsibilities as a citizen: to question and challenge those in power, to listen to people they disagree with, to weigh the good of the community in with personal self-interest in making decisions. I am especially disappointed by the renunciation of responsibility by academics, journalists and Democratic politicians. These are people who could change things if they wanted to. If Bill Clinton hugs the Bushes one more time, I will be sorely tempted to kick him in the shins.

As much as I esteem personal responsibility, I don't expect an 85-year old woman living on $3600 a year to prestidigitate a helicopter out of thin air. Similarly, I don't expect New Orleans, with the per capita income something like 30% below average, to prestidigitate levees, retaining walls, pumping stations, and wetland stabilization programs out of thin air.

Moral fiber, as desirable as it is, does not substitute for large amounts of cash. If it did, AMEX would have found some way to issue a card.
Agreed. Bush's "apology" has about as much real meaning as a dog's bark.
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