Sunday, September 4, 2005

Bush's Waterloo?

Posted By on Sun, Sep 4, 2005 at 9:01 PM

Perhaps it overstates the case to call New Orleans W.'s waterloo, even if the double entendre is irresistible. But Katrina's assault on Bush's political capital could be devastating if a lot of Republicans out there share the view expressed in a remarkable email to Andrew Sullivan that appeared Friday on Sullivan's blog. Here it is in full:

I've considered myself a socially libertarian, fiscally conservative Republican for a very long time. I got along with the idea that I wasn't going to get a whole lot of help. College wouldn't be free. Job training would cost money and time. And I'm probably a decent example of up-from-not-much.

But after watching what's happening in New Orleans - an American city that I've loved, visited and have always wanted to return to - I can't ever vote for these people again.

Being a Republican means that you expect the government to do just a couple things for you and nothing else. Build a road. Defend us from enemies, foreign and domestic. Stuff that would be a lot less organized if we all had to do it ourselves. Everything else is just gravy.

And as we poured money into Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, I thought, "Right on," because some of that money's bound to fall on my head.

Well, something else would fall on my head first.

I work for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. And that means that if something really catastrophic happens in MY city, and they ask me to stick around, that's the job. We have A and B teams and I'm a disaster recovery specialist on Team A. I've drawn up plans with names like Drawbridge and Smoldering Crater.

Here's what these people would do for me.

They would leave me there to die.

Look at the facts. There's no coordination on the ground right now. The city has no fresh water, no electricity, no services. The floodwater has so much oil and toxins in it that it's flammable.

In psychology they have what is called a fight-or-flight response. When faced with danger, do you subdue it or do you flee? Some of it has to do with risk assessment, but in this case, there is no flight. There is nowhere to run. So flight means die. If my choice was to pull a pistol on a truck driver or Nat, Jarren, Jayson, or any of you dies, that's no choice at all.

I'm not talking about the looters grabbing big-screen televisions and basketball hoops. I'm talking about the ones that are chest-deep in water carrying bottled water and diapers. You can't tell me for three days to be patient, the bus is coming, and they're piling up bodies in the street median.

We have known that this sort of disaster could occur for a century. Hell, the tour bus driver told me about it on the plantation tour. This means that we have been able to envision the stark reality of this occurring for a week-the newspapers all said the storm would hit New Orleans last Thursday.

A week to get buses? A week to get fishing boats? Trucks? This is the United States! I read someone who said, "All the people who weren't bedridden, or had money, or had cars left. The people that are left had none of those things."

There are people tonight who are going to sleep on overpasses for the fourth straight night. There are prisoners who will do the same. There are people dying at a convention center because no one will tell them that no one is coming for them, and the National Guard is protecting the kitchens. There are police officers who are turning in their badges because they've lost everything, have no guidance, and don't want to be shot by a looter.

There are people tonight inside a concrete domed stadium with holes in the roof and no air conditioning who were told the buses are coming today, and they might, or they might not. There is no food. There is no water. There are bodies floating through the neighborhoods.

In the UNITED STATES.

Some people say that you can't hold the President responsible for this. Oh, yes you can. Because when he looked over at John Ashcroft after the jets hit the towers and said, "I want you to make sure this never happens again," it was not meant to be specific to "no more planes hitting large buildings on the East Coast, right, boss." It was meant that no American should have to run for his life through an American city. While Americans may perish in a senseless, unforeseen disaster, we'd save the ones we could.

And the Cabinet appointees were mushwits and he could barely speak a complete sentence and we're sending people overseas for God knows how long to help people who are indifferent at worst and hostile at best, but they were going to protect us. In 2004, that's all a lot of us needed. Well right now, it's obvious that they can't.

Ask yourself this: What if Al-Qaeda blew up the levees instead of the hurricane? Would the response have been any different?

No. It wouldn't. That city flooded in a day. And if it were Las Vegas, I would have been in some operations center watching people try to decide who gets to starve to death and who gets to get on a bus to Los Angeles or Phoenix. And there would be no certainty that I'd be on that bus in time to protect my wife and kids.

But one thing sure would have been different.

They wouldn't have had a whole week to sort it out and know what's coming. They were supposed to KNOW this already. It will have been FOUR YEARS next weekend since someone probably said, "Hey, what if..."

And for that, the whole stack of them should be fired.

I've had it. I'm done. And if the other bunch of assholes can't figure out that what's important is that babies don't starve to death here (and I'm not talking some metaphorical goo-goo thing with school lunches and welfare, but real, actual starving) and we get people out of harm's way, we'll get rid of them too. And so on.

Because this is about leadership, not about bitching on CNN how no one's in charge, or listening to Peggy Noonan furrow her brow at the Governor's performance, or bragging that we've sent in one National Guardsman for every 200 people, or actually having the audacity to say that "we had no idea the levees would break."

Today, I saw my country favorably compared to Indonesia and Thailand, (always our traditional benchmarks of infrastructural success) while the elderly die of thirst in the street. We sneered at France when this happened during a heat wave.

No more.

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