Monday, September 05, 2005

An Act of "God"

Hurricane Katrina has caused the president’s bitter opponents to get religion. Judging by their response to the hurricane and its aftermath, they apparently believe W. is able to control the wind and waves, and can choose whether or not to protect helpless citizens from the wrath of nature and their fellow man.

To his critics, W. has become God.


· In a commentary entitled, modestly enough, “For They That Sow the Wind Shall Reap the Whirlwind,” a certain Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote in the Huffington Post that Bush and now-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sank the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and, by implication, brought on Katrina: “Now we are all learning what it's like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence. . . . Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and—now—Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.

· In the Boston Globe, Ross Gelbspan wrote that the “real” name of Katrina is global warming, which has been aided and abetted by “big oil” and the policies of George W. Bush.

· Juergen Trittin, Germany’s environment minister, said, “The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina and because of neglected environmental policies.”

Never mind that responsible scientists are dismissing the supposed link between global warming and Katrina. According to The New York Times:

“Because hurricanes form over warm ocean water, it is easy to assume that the recent rise in their number and ferocity is because of global warming.

“But that is not the case, scientists say. Instead, the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures of several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught “is very much natural,” said William M. Gray, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues forecasts for the hurricane season.”

However, that same Times still blames Bush for the nightmare scenario that has unfolded, for the mauraders raping and looting their way through New Orleans and for the slowness of relief to reach victims. Not even bothering to disguise its contempt for the man, the “newspaper of record” sniped on September 1:

“George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.”

More blunt was the mayor of New Orleans, who said he was “pissed” about the federal response. (No wonder the waters have become so foul down there!)

The television news is full of reporters badgering Bush administration officials about why they did not foresee the disaster and why they have not instantly solved this logistical nightmare and stopped the anarchy. Meanwhile, Louisiana officials (and the able-bodied people who chose to ride out the storm) closest to the problem seem to be getting a free pass.

The president’s opponents must think he can simply snap his fingers and make it all better. Actually, while the response has been too slow in some quarters, the federal government and the military (not to mention armies of churches and private aid groups) are working heroically.

About 30,000 National Guard troops have been deployed; several Navy ships have been sent; the EPA is easing rules to allow more gas to be produced; the Transportation Department has dispatched 400 trucks with 5.4 million MREs and 13.4 million liters of water; and we have seen many troops from the Coast Guard pluck thousands from their roofs. Yes, the long job of rescue and rebuilding has barely begun, but it is a start.

We Americans are so spoiled. Rather than take responsibility for our actions, we seem to think it is George W. Bush’s responsibility to clean up our own messes, and that he can do so effortlessly.

The leaders of corruption-ridden New Orleans, seeing the vulnerability of the city, could have evacuated their citizens, built better levees, and protected the surrounding moisture-absorbing wetlands. They didn’t. Rather than admit their abject failures, it’s much more convenient to blame Bush.

He is God, after all.


Blogger Bob said...

Hey Stan,

Didn't CT just say that W. wasn't God? I'm a little confused ;-)

This is not, you must admit, one of FEMA's shining hours. And the choice of Michael Brown as FEMA director, whose main credential is that he was a pal of W.'s campaign manager was a less than inspired.

I do think you're letting W. off a bit to easy -- there's some reporting that flood control budgets in NO have had major cuts, with funding channelled to Iraq. There's a great deal of hubris involved in believing you can fight a war and make major tax cuts without damaging your country's infrastructure.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Stan Guthrie said...


I'm not here to defend FEMA or Brown. They are not blameless in this disaster, but surely you agree that Mayor Nagin failing to evacuate the city (using hundreds of school buses) and to follow his city's own emergency plan is the chief culprit, followed by Gov. Blanco, who waited to call in the Guard and federal help in a timely fashion. She dithered, and people died. I think it's disgraceful how they are now trying to blame Bush (who admittedly made some PR gaffes).

I'm not sure I agree w/ you on the FC budgets. I heard the city got as much under Bush as under Clinton. I think it was the primary responsibility of NO and LA officials to do whatever it took to see that the city was protected. They had decades to do this, and didn't.

As far as damaging our nation's infrastructure by cutting taxes and going to war at the same time, I'm not sure there is a cause and effect here. If you have to go to war--and our leaders thought this was best for national security--then that's what you do. The tax cuts have played a huge role in keeping our economy going. Remember, we had the Clinton recession and 9/11?


7:11 AM  
Blogger Bob said...


Good points, thought I think the funding for the , goes through the Army corp of engineers, and is down during the Bush years. I could be wrong.

In fairness to Bush, the Tribune reported that there's been chronic underfuning of the army corp for years. And this has been a disaster waiting to happen for years as well, as the Times Picayune and others have reported.

Nagin and Blanco didn't make create the conditions that led to the levees bursting; if those levees are maintained by the army corp. The port of NO was a vital part of the national economy, making it in our best national interests to protect it. Chief culprits? I just don't see Nagin and Blanco in that role. They didn't act decisely to get people out either--and deserve some blame.

On the war--if you do decide to go to war, you've got to count the costs. If we add several hundred billion dollars in expenditures, and then reduce revenue, something's got to give. My fear is that infrastructure, like flood control, is the place we've decided to skimp.

I'm not on the Bush bashing bandwagon, really I'm not. He's not God. He is president, and has got to be willing to shoulder some blame.

3:14 PM  

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