That department is Bush 's baby --a governmental behemoth, consolidating control of all the government 's power and resources to handle any kind of emergency. In the event of a natural disaster emergency like Hurricane Katrina, the Department 's Federal Emergency Management Agency quickly swings into action, coordinating rescue and aid operations --at least that was the plan envisioned by the same great thinkers that brought us the war in Iraq. ...But then came Katrina, and we soon discovered that it takes more than big talk and a bunch of incompetent political appointees to actually manage an emergency.
During the initial days of the disaster, it was hard to tell whose side FEMA was on. There were reports of trucks bringing water being turned back while people were dying of dehydration. Airboat crews were prevented from coming from Florida to help rescue stranded survivors; and a hospital ship, the U.S.S. Bataan, capable of producing 100,000 gallons/day of fresh water, sat unused off the coast.
Both FEMA Director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff appeared to respond to the Katrina disaster with all the urgency of someone having spilled a pot of coffee in the break room --except in this case, they had advanced warning of when and where the coffee was going to be spilled. On the fourth day of the disaster, Mr. Chertoff was still unaware that thousands of people were stranded in the New Orleans Convention Center --even though the rest of America was watching it on live TV. He doesn 't seem to believe anything, until he gets the official memo. I don 't know much about the cadaver-like Mr. Cherotff, but he made a couple of very telling statements this past week:
Then, on 9/3/05, when asked about the delay in getting troops into the affected area, Chertoff said, "When we send the National Guard overseas, we don't tell them to pack up and leave in 24 hours unless it's some huge emergencies. " (This would have been a good time for follow-up questions, like 'When did you first hear of the hurricane? ' or 'What do you consider a huge emergency? '.)
Eventually, FEMA Director Brown was offered up as scapegoat for the federal government 's failure to respond to the human suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, but is he really to blame? When you appoint an estates and family lawyer, who spent the last 11 years supervising horse shows, to be the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who is to blame? It 's like putting Donald Rumsfeld in charge of the Defense Department --a sure recipe for disaster.
Thanks to Harry Truman, most Americans know exactly where the buck stops. Bush 's handlers know this, so after a frantic last-ditch effort to pass the buck, Bush finally took the unprecedented step of actually accepting responsibility for something. "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility. "
Bush didn 't mean it, of course. Mistakes were made by someone --not him, but he was desperate and had to say something. "I take responsibility " --What does that mean? Are we going to dock his pay? Is he going to lose his job? No, this was just another photo op, designed to put an end to the blame game; so his administration can move on to their next disaster.
"The same mistakes made on 9/11 were made over again, in some cases worse, " said Thomas Kean, the Republican Chairman of the 9/11 commission. "Those are system-wide failures that can be fixed and should have been fixed right away. "
I think Bill Maher summed it up best: "[Mr. President} ...On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. " --HBO, Real Time, 9/9/05
How has the Bush Administration managed to avoid responsibility for its lies, corruption and incompetence for so long? Simple --they control Congress. Right now, Republicans in Congress are blocking investigations into the Bush Administration 's lies that led us into war, the White House leak that exposed a CIA operative, election fraud, and who knows what else. This is not the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Mick Youther is part of the surplus population that is such a nuisance in BushWorld. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org