Friday, September 16, 2005

After Katrina, Bush Has Got to Go

Neither the Federal Emergency Management Agency nor Pres. Bush was responsible for Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans and Mississippi. Some of us wish we could blame them for it, but we can’t.

What we can blame the Bush administration for is what it did in the wake of the storm, and even hours before it struck.

Even three weeks after the monster storm sent flood waters spilling into the streets of New Orleans, even after Bush replaced the head of the agency responsible for helping the victims of natural disasters, FEMA is still under attack for being painfully sluggish in bringing aid to the hurricane-ravaged areas.

Acknowledging that the massive relief effort was enough to put a strain on FEMA and on local agencies, the fact remains that the federal government was, some claim, criminally negligent in its response.

It’s incredible how na├»ve the president was shortly after the levees gave way. He said he was taken by surprise that it happened and that nobody foresaw the possibility of the levees breaking.

Nobody could have seen it coming, unless you count the entire scientific community, the Army Corps of Engineers, and most of the local politicians and emergency planning agencies in Louisiana.

Bush initially praised Michael Brown, the head of FEMA when the storm struck. That was shortly before Bush decided to replace Brown after he received the brunt of criticism for the slow response.

Ben Morris, mayor of the town of Slidell outside New Orleans said as recently as last Friday that the town, which suffered major damage, had received no help from FEMA. He called the agency “useless.”

Radio stations in the ravaged area have taken calls from dozens of people complaining that they spend hours trying to get through to FEMA but with no luck. Some even say their pleas have been ignored.

Oh sure, a couple of weeks after the storm, Pres. Bush finally took the blame for the slow and unimpressive response of the federal government. That was the first and only thing he has done right throughout the entire relief effort. The rest of his time was spent paying lip service to what ought to have been measurable actions.

In the wake of 9-11, Bush pushed for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorism. He merged FEMA with that department, making it much more bureaucratic. It was a dumb decision.

An emergency management agency, almost by definition, must be ready to act quickly, precisely, and efficiently. Emergencies don’t wait for bureaucrats.

This is just the latest of a long string of bad decisions by our Chief Executive. Even many of those who voted to give him a second term now believe they made a mistake in choosing Bush’s moral imperative over substantial leadership.

But that’s in the past. Bush still has three full years to go. And some wonder if our country can survive another three years of Bush’s incompetence.

On his watch, we have lost the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon has been attacked, we’re fighting an unnecessary war in Iraq, the economy is weak, the rich is getting richer at the expense of the poor, scientific research has been thwarted, and the City of New Orleans has been lost to a preventable disaster.

Our nation now must spend $100 billion or more to recover and rebuild a stretch of the Gulf Coast that could have been protected by modernized levees that would have cost less than one-tenth that amount.

The House of Representatives impeached Pres. Clinton for lying about having sex. Predictably, there is no talk of impeaching Bush, since both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans.

But the president should do what he has always done best. He should quit and walk away. And he should take Cheney with him.

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