The last great opportunity in the form of Cindy Sheehan had run its course, and things were just too quiet. So as the day after the worst natural disaster to strike the United States in decades (or ever, by some accounts) dawned, the snipers, whiners, bellyachers, moaners and groaners, buck-passers, cheap-shot artists, political haymakers, shysters, finger-pointers, grumblers, and other related malcontents took to the airwaves, print vehicles and blog sites to spew their venom.
It’s easy to understand that people are appalled at the human suffering they see 24 hours a day on cable news. The situation on the Gulf Coast is indeed horrible, and our sympathy and even our anger are appropriate responses in such cases.
What is not acceptable is the furor created by the Bash Bushing Bunch, which is not so much angry that a huge storm leveled homes, churches and businesses in a wide area of three states, or that a major U.S. city, illogically positioned and built below sea level, is mostly under water, as it is eager to take shots at the President of the United States. What is also unacceptable is the complicity of the media in this cheap exercise.
Most offensive is not that people want to know what happened to delay needed relief efforts, but that even before they know what happened they are ready, ropes in hand, to hang George Bush. This crude and tawdry behavior is unbefitting of Americans, and an ABC News/Washington Post poll shows most Americans hold state and local authorities more responsible than the federal government by a 75 percent to 67 percent margin, and President Bush is thought responsible by 44 percent. A CNN-Gallup-USA Today poll found that only 13% blamed Bush, and only 18% blamed federal agencies. (Previous poll information corrected)
These critics are beyond taking sound advice, or following reasonable suggestions to keep quiet for a month or so until the situation can be stabilized. They don’t understand how relief efforts are designed, and they don’t care. It is pure politics, and everybody knows political activity often takes place the gutter. Such is the nature of this inappropriate noise.
The President has been roundly and inappropriately blamed for failing to put federal relief efforts in action. The agency targeted for criticism is the Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA. However, it is not FEMA’s role to be first on the scene of a disaster. According to the agency’s Strategic Plan, “In accordance with FEMA’s primary authorizing legislation, the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, … primary responsibility for disaster response rests with State and local authorities. This means FEMA does not respond to all disasters that occur in the United States. Instead, when State and local capacity to respond is threatened or overwhelmed, a Governor may ask the President for Federal assistance.” [Emphasis added] Clearly, FEMA is not supposed to do what many Americans mistakenly blame it for not doing.
While the Bush Bashing Bunch is still in manic mode, some common sense has filtered through the intolerant din of blame from Bush critics. Bob Williams, President of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, writing in the Wall Street Journal a column, titled Blame Amid the Tragedy: Who should be held accountable for the response to Katrina, had the following analysis:
Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible -- local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.
The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his/her emergency operations center.
The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.
But such reasoned explanations will fall on deaf ears, because most of the critics really don’t care about accurately assigning responsibility for inaction or wrong action, they care only about their narrow self-important goal of blaming George Bush.
The nation’s growing dependence upon the federal government to solve all our problems has invaded and destroyed to a significant degree the ability of Americans to think for themselves and act in their own best interest as individuals. So, when Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, those addicted to government incorrectly believed that Washington ought to have had federal relief efforts on the outskirts of New Orleans, Gulf Port and Biloxi with boats, helicopters, trucks, buses, bulldozers, food, water, medicine and thousands of first responders at the ready.
These expectations are not only unreasonable; they are irrational.
So many of the American people suffer from one or both of these obsessions – dependence on the federal government, and hatred for George Bush. It is nauseating and disgusting. It threatens our very existence.
A country so deeply divided along political lines that even a great tragedy is fair game for political opportunism, and whose citizens are so dependent upon government to solve its problems that they can no longer think clearly, surely can’t survive for very long.