Around the time Hurricane Katrina…

Around the time Hurricane Katrina was about to unleash its fury The Cape Cod Times published a letter from Wellfleet resident Dave Reddell, excerpts of which follow: “Speaking as a blue-stater who’s a working stiff driving a 10-year-old truck, unable to afford health insurance or a house…with an honorable discharge from the U.S. military, I have had a bellyful of the…hypocritical drivel spewed by the people currently in power – – those nice, privileged draft-dodging, war-mongering liars who dare suggest that I’m not a real American because I live in New England … Socialism? You and I are subsidizing these people’s salaries, health care, retirement benefits, housing stipends, limos, luxury jets…while they and their stooges on talk radio…whine about Roosevelt’s “welfare state.” “It remains for conservatives, real conservatives, to stand up and affirm their belief that lying, rigging elections and waging illegal and unnecessary wars are wrong. So far the silence is deafening.”
And so far, in the wake of the Katrina disaster, it’s the same old drivel from the administration and a deafening silence in terms of accepting responsibility for its inept response. Hurricane damage and flooding went way beyond any local government’s ability to cope which is why, despite constant White House denials, Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26th before Katrina made landfall and why on August 28th she wrote President Bush requesting federal aid.
The problems that arose in the aftermath of the storm were long in coming and forecast well in advance. Why then were FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the president so disengaged? Why had FEMA funds previously been cut in half in the president’s 2003 budget? And why had the barrier islands and wetlands around New Orleans become fodder for private interests instead of being left as buffer zones to protect against natural forces such as hurricanes?
Part of the explanation is the mindset of this administration. In 2001 Budget Director Mitch Daniels suggested downsizing FEMA saying “expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level.” By 2003 FEMA had been subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bush administration had moved away from the “mitigation” concepts developed during the Clinton years.
This lack of seriousness with respect to FEMA is apparent in the Bush appointments to the department – – first Joseph Albaugh, a former Bush campaign manager, then Michael Brown, formerly with an International Equestrian organization. As one FEMA employee described the leadership “The biggest frustration here is that we at FEMA have responded to disasters at Oklahoma City and 9/11 and here are people who haven’t responded to a kitchen fire telling us how to deal with terrorism.” Luckily it wasn’t terrorism this time, but the administration’s bumbling in the face of a national disaster serves as an indictment of a government led by a band of incompetent cronies.
It is disturbing that the president’s mother commented that evacuees in Houston were overwhelmed by Houston hospitality and that they were disadvantaged anyway so the Houston experience was “working quite well for them.” Never mind the family photographs or personal property lost, the pets left behind, the homes destroyed or jobs lost. The Astrodome is working well for them – – ah yes, “them.”
Of all the tasks assigned to government the most important one is to safeguard the security of its citizens and at this task our government has failed miserably. This administration doesn’t seem to realize that we are all “them.”