Friday, May 11, 2007

When Politics Kill

Now seems as good a time as any to reflect upon the danger represented by the over politicization of everything by this White House. Currently the heat is on the administration for trying to politicize the Justice Department. But let us recall the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina, because this serves to demonstrate the grim reality of how this administration plays politics with everything... even the lives of disaster victims.

1st, check out the advance preparations by FEMA for Hurricane Frances. Hurricane Francis was one of several hurricanes to hit Florida in 2004. FEMA moved massive amounts of resources to the region prior to Frances' landfall in Florida. Tractor trailers loaded with generators, communications vehicles, water and ice trucks pre staged in Florida at FEMA's request, pharmaceutical caches... the list goes on and on.

Next check out the advance preparations by FEMA for Hurricane Katrina. Those preparations consisted of the staging of several search and rescue teams, and several dozen medical emergency response teams to the region. Food and ice were to be moved into the affected areas after the storm had passed.

The difference could not be more apparent. Florida was swamped with federal attention before, and after, the storms hit. They were a very important swing state in a Presidential election year. New Orleans was literally swamped by flood water, and for nearly a week after the disaster the media showed daily images of suffering and death reminiscent of a circle of Dante's inferno... and the federal government was on vacation! Louisiana's people suffered because they were not fortunate enough to be an important state in the electoral count during a Presidential election.

The fact that the FEMA response to the Florida hurricanes was based in large part upon the political season is reflected by this story in the Sun Sentinel.
As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show.

Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."

Contemporary accounts in the media during the campaign noted the political advantage given to Bush by his role as President, being able to show up in a crucial electoral state and throwing around money like a flower girl on speed. Here is the Washington Times... which is hardly a liberal rag.
President Bush will tour hurricane damage in Florida today on a trip that, while considered official White House business, also provides political opportunities in a state he barely won in 2000.
"Many lives have been affected by this hurricane," he told a campaign rally here. "I know you join me in sending our prayers to those people who look for solace and help."

By declaring the state a federal disaster area and showing up with millions of dollars for clean-up and reconstruction, Mr. Bush is playing a role unavailable to Sen. John Kerry — that of benefactor to the very voters who may once again decide the presidency.
Thus we see a President whose attentiveness to Floridians affected by hurricanes in an election year was extraordinary. But what do we see about Presidential attentiveness for those affected by Hurricane Katrina? On the day Katrina made landfall we have a picture of George Bush eating cake with John McCain in sunny Arizona, immediately prior to giving a political speech to a pre picked audience on his medicare prescription plan. The day following landfall we have a picture of Bush strumming a guitar, immediately after giving a political speech at the Naval Station in San Diego which focused on the war in Iraq. It is literally as if the President were the bastard child of a union between Marie Antoinette and Nero. Strumming guitar as New Orleans drowned and eating cake as the citizens he is charged with leading are starving.

The President was on vacation and then went about his political business as normal until politics absolutely forced him to fly over the devastation caused by Katrina. Politics forced him to repeatedly visit the disaster in the following weeks, but he did not act until he was forced to by politics, as the nation reacted in revulsion at the utter misery playing out day by day on our television screens.

Once the immediate crisis had passed the continuing federal aid was politicized as well. Once Michael Brown was cut loose he started spilling the beans. According to Brown the federal government took a decidedly different approach to Democratic Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco than to Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, `We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "`We can't do it to Haley [Barbour] because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

"This is exactly what we were living but could not bring ourselves to believe. Karl Rove was playing politics while our people were dying," Blanco said through a spokeswoman, referring to Bush's top political strategist. "The federal effort was delayed, and now the public knows why. It's disgusting."
Guess who was appointed by the President to oversee the federal effort in the disaster zone after "Heckuvajob" Brownie was sacked... none other than Karl Rove.

The politicization of the Justice Department is the story causing the most noise right now. Let us not forget the victims of the politicization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In many ways, the sheer incompetence and cronyism bared by Katrina was the initial wave in a series, each demonstrating the disastrous consequences of unfettered partisanship in the running of day to day government by this administration. It is as if the Government itself has been overcome by Hurricane Bush, with the partisan winds and flooding overwhelming the levees constructed to separate the political from the non political. Yesterday it was FEMA, today the Justice Department... and who knows what tomorrow brings?

Tomorrow corruption shall go all the way to the oval office!

Oh. Wait, Never mind.

We are in for a world of hurt if GW continues this route. Recovery from his damage to this country may make New Orleans clean up look like a glass of spilled milk.

By the way...thank you for alerting me to the template snafu... If you wouldn't mind dropping by some time in the near future and let me know the results. I stretched it all a bit too far... drat. Hopefully this tweaking I just did will do the trick.

Again thank you my friend...

I had many of the same thoughts early in my blogging career--did a post on the very topic--but didn't express them with nearly the eloquence you do and got savaged for it.

An interesting point of contention for the conservatives who flamed me was their insistence that Florida didn't get different treatment and that, in fact, the Federal response to Hurricanes Ivan and Francis was as incompetent as the response to Katrina. Unbelievable.
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