Wednesday, September 7, 2005

'Results are not acceptable'

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

President Bush returned to Kristina-battered Louisiana Monday, hoping to undo self-inflicted damage of last week's disastrous visit when he wisecracked about his good times in Big Easy as a boozing party boy and complimented FEMA's boss for "doing a heck of a job" even as FEMA's criminal incompetence was captured on television.

The president probably spoke an epitaph for his whole presidency by observing the obvious about Washington's response to calamity—"The results are not acceptable." He also spoke for most Americans in polls who consider his performance "not acceptable."

The unfailingly conservative former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, added his disgust: "If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

Bumbling on Katrina is so a propos of this White House's style: unprecedented deficits, hefty tax breaks for the wealthy while fighting a $300 billion war, relaxed regulations for industrial polluters, lying to justify war, poorly equipped combat troops sent into Iraq battle, a presidential medal for CIA director George Tenet after intelligence bungling on 9/11 and Iraq, a thorough contempt for science.

As TV recorded the heartbreaking pathos of New Orleanians' cries for help, Americans recalled how swiftly the Senate wrote special legislation to meddle in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube fiasco so President Bush could rush overnight from Texas to Washington to sign it in a shabby political sellout to right-wing evangelicals.

As for the utterly inept FEMA boss Bush hailed for "doing a heck of job," Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown was fired from his civilian job as "commissioner of judges" for the International Arabian Horse Association, then tapped political connections to join FEMA.

Officials in Louisiana and New Orleans, where corruption is notorious, have their own explaining to do about why a below-sea level metropolis continued growing without proper safeguards.

But Washington's snafued response is the real issue: Katrina was a test of President Bush's reckless boasts that FEMA and Homeland Security were prepared for catastrophe.

The Bush machine confuses performance with swagger (Bush's "Mission accomplished"), arrogant dares (Bush's "Bring 'em on" to Iraqi insurgents) and excuses (Rumsfeld's "Stuff happens" after looters ransacked Baghdad).

As Katrina roared toward the Gulf coast, all the president's men ignored scientific warnings of disaster, while the president was on the road with his script claiming progress in Iraq—during the deadliest summer for U.S. troops.

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