Surely, Karl Rove, who had seen Bush's approval ratings drop to all-time lows, knew days ahead that a Category 5 Hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans and a calamitous disaster was likely to unfold there if and when the levees were unable to hold back the water. What better way to improve those ratings than for Bush to be photographed the day after the disaster struck, standing on top of debris, bullhorn in hand, vowing that the government would help Gulf Coast states rebuild from the Katrina catastrophe?
But none of that happened. They bungled their own political resurrection! Nearly a full week went by, while thousands were dying and starving or were kennelled in unbelievable filth in New Orleans. Nobody seemed to be in charge. Bush remained "on vacation" in Crawford, and traveled around to fundraisers, played golf, etc.; Condi was theatergoing and buying thousand-dollar shoes on Fifth Avene. What was going on? Did Karl Rove not understand the significance of what was happening? Was Bush...uh..."incapacitated"? What about Cheney, "on vacation" in Wyoming; was he "incapacitated," too? Are the Bush people really that politically obtuse?
So here's the question I have for those of you who voted for Bush in 2004: Do you get it now?
BUSH GOES AWOL, AGAIN
For the past four years, progressives and moderate-conservatives have been pointing out how incompetent this Administration is. Many Bush Republicans accused us of making up such accusations for purely political reasons. Now you yourself can see what we have seen: These guys are way over their heads and haven't got a clue; they're constantly having to come back at a problem in hopes of getting it right the second or third time around. Of course, that means they're always playing catch-up, which means they're always too late. (Such as this Alice-in-Wonderland comment by Bush a week after he went AWOL -- again -- when his country needed him: "In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need.")
Those at the royal Bush court lead such isolated, circumscribed lives that when a disaster strikes, they are so far removed from the circumstances in which regular people find themselves that they simply don't understand the magnitude of what's happening out there in the real-world. You may remember that Bush's first response to the Asian tsunami was silence, and then a grudging piddling amount of aid offerred; it took the international community shaming him for his unfeeling miserliness before his handlers began to change Bush's tune and he finally pledged genuine aid commensurate with the enormity of the catastrophe.
Our earlier assessment of the Administration as bumblers was made mainly on the disaster that Bush&Co. made, and are still making, in the Persian Gulf. But now the whole world gets to see, up close and personal, the thorough botch they made, and are still making, in the other Gulf, in New Orleans and environs.
THE IRAQ BOTCH
In Iraq, they launched a war based on lies and deceptions, and had no plan for what should happen after the major military fighting ceased.
They turned away Iraqis from participating in the reconstruction of their own society, preferring to award the multi-billion-dollar contracts to huge American firms like Halliburton and Bechtel. They disbanded the Iraqi army, leaving hundreds of thousands of young Iraqi men unemployed and angry. They insultingly refused aid and advice from the United Nations and their former allies, wanting nobody to interfere with their Occupation. They didn't have enough troops, and the correct troops, in place to police the "post-war" phase. They didn't guard the abandoned ammo dumps, and then were surprised when those munitions were used to blow up U.S. soldiers.
They finally, a year or two late, realized that the U.S. was engaged in a guerrilla-style war against nationalist insurgents, along with some foreign jihadists, and started to change their military strategy. But it was too late, and insufficient, to make much of a dent. Now the U.S. is involved in a stalemated, Vietnam-like quagmire, and steady streams of flag-draped caskets make their way back to the U.S., and thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians continue dying as well.
And still Bush cannot bring himself to answer Cindy Sheehan's simple question: "For what noble cause did my son have to die?"
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Now in 2005, a natural disaster occurred that everyone predicted -- including the government's own emergency-response specialists. Specifically, Homeland Security Department chief Michael Chertoff and FEMA's head Michael Brown were briefed on the consequences of the levees breaking days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. But the Administration's response was non-existent. Or completely beyond belief: Bush actually told Diane Sawyer "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." Read your experts' frickin reports, man!
FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- which Bush turned into a stripped-down, underfunded subgroup buried in the Homeland Security Department, focusing on anti-terrorism measures rather than on emergency-management -- is led by an bumbling political appointee, Brown, someone with no experience in this field, and it showed; for example, neither he nor Chertoff were aware there were thousands of refugees in the city's Convention Center until Day 5. We ordinary citizens, paying attention to the news reports, knew that three days before they did.