So now FEMA Director Michael Brown has been relieved of his duties in New Orleans. According to the AP Wire, when asked if he was being made a scapegoat for the scathing criticism both he and the administration have received for bungling the aftermath of Katrina, his response was "By the media, yes. By the president, no."
If you will permit me such an indelicate reply, horseshit. Brown has deservedly taken heat from the media for his ineptitude in coordinating relief efforts and initial unwillingness to acknowledge hard truths about Katrina, but this is clearly an effort on the part of the administration to pass the buck.
Yes, Brown bears a significant responsibility for the delayed efforts to bring supplies to Louisiana. Shame on him for having the nerve to appear on television claiming to be doing everything in his power as the bloated bodies of innocent American victims rotted on the streets. If Harry Connick Jr. could tour the Superdome on with a camera crew, there is no reason in the world why FEMA could not have brought in trucks of food, water and medicine. That's saying nothing of buses to get them out of that hellhole.
That said, though, who was responsible for Brown's appointment in the first place? Who ignored the many holes in his resume (click on this link for the most blatant padding ever seen) to install him in 2003? Yes, that's after September 11, where America deeply felt what it was to experience a national crisis and learned what was required from our leaders. When a massive national crisis was a matter of fact, not a threat, Bush installed as our FEMA director a man whose sole professional experience in crisis management was working as an administrative assistant to a city manager in 1977. That's like expecting someone to pilot a jet when his sole aviation experience is making paper planes in elementary school.
Who slashed the federal funding to reinforce the leeves? Who sent over two-thirds of the Louisiana National Guard to Iraq? Whose mother, when commenting on the state of the impoverished refugees in Houston's Astrodome chuckled that they were "underprivileged anyway, so this is working out for them?"
Whose comforting words of sympathy to three homeless little boys in the Astrodome were "Isn't this fun?" Who invested billions of dollars, thousand of American soldiers and untold numbers of civilians to build a democracy in Iraq and then stated that we shouldn't bother to rebuild New Orleans? Who spent much of the spring creating personalized novelty legislation for Terri Schiavo and then conveniently forgot about the "culture of life" when it was the faces of destitute black babies and grandmothers filling our television screens?
If there is any tiny upside to this mess-- and believe me, I am really grasping at straws here-- it's that apparently Karl Rove is not the Evil Political Mastermind we all once thought. My God, if he had made Bush, Bill Frist and the Twins pass out Dasani bottles at the Superdome last Wednesday, he would have cemented forty more years of Republican rule. That one photo op would have undermined years of civil rights, welfare and crime legislation Democrats have heaped on reluctant Republicans.
Maybe when Lake Pontchartrain flooded New Orleans, it also swept a little reality into this country. People are finally not afraid to say "too little, too late." They are starting to snub the glib responses about "a strong America" and demand hard answers as to where, exactly, strong Americans can get diapers, insulin shots and gas for under four dollars a gallon. As Bush's approval ratings continue to drop, my faith in the American press and the American people continues to grow. It is a shame that it took a crisis of this magnitude to reveal how hypocritical and inept Bush and the Reublicans in Congress are capable of being. I only hope that the "reassignment" of Michael Brown doesn't satiate this new national appetite for compassion and accountability.