Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You Reap What You Sow

A mere four weeks after Katrina made landfall in the Gulf, Mark Hyman has something to say about it, but it all sounds eerily familiar.

That’s because Hyman has fallen into lock step with the Bush administration and its supporters, placing the blame for the lackadaisical response to the disaster on the government—local and state government, that is.

Spending an entire commentary ripping on the mayor of New Orleans for his alleged role in the human disaster that followed the natural one, Hyman does not even mention President Bush or any aspect of the federal government. Instead, he repeats the falsehood that there were dozens and dozens of school buses that Mayor Nagin could have used to evacuate citizens but didn’t, and claims that evacuation protocols were not followed by either the state or local governments.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the poor response to Katrina. The point is not that there aren’t valid charges to lay at the feet of state and local governments; the issue is that the federal government must also own up to its responsibility. Even conservative commentators have had to
acknowledge the weakness of the federal response (well, except our Mark, of course).

For example, when the president of the United States puts a friend of a friend at the top of FEMA, a man whose claim to fame was running horse shows (and not very well, apparently), that’s an abuse of power that must be owned up to and remedied. Yet Michael Brown is inexplicably
still on the federal payroll, helping a Republican-dominated Congressional committee dig into what went wrong. Well, I suppose he would know, wouldn’t he?

But as NPR’s
Daniel Schorr correctly notes in a recent commentary, this is a problem that goes beyond “Brownie.” It’s the result of having leaders who have contempt for the very government they lead. Why should we expect someone like Bush to do anything other than hand out federal jobs to buddies? If the government can’t or shouldn’t do anything, incompetence is actually a desirable quality in a job applicant.

But Bush, aided by yes-men both inside and outside of Washington, continues to demonstrate his personal psycho-pathology that precludes him from admitting a mistake.

Another thing
Bush isn’t good at is getting the American people to make sacrifices. As any number of commentators have noted, Bush never once asked Americans to make any sort of sacrifice at all in the wake of 9/11 (except to bite the bullet and shop more). And although it was reported that Bush had called on Americans to become more energy conscious and frugal when it comes to gasoline in the wake of Katrina and Rita, an actual reading of the president’s remarks reveals something quite different.

He begins to barely suggest that Americans might want to think about carpooling and not taking non-essential trips, when he suddenly jerks back into anti-government rhetoric by saying that it’s really the federal government employees who should be taking these measures (as if getting the secretarial pool at HUD to share rides to the office would actually accomplish anything).

It’s as if Bush has a cognitive blockage that prevents him from asking Americans to not use so much gasoline; when he looks like he’s about to, back comes the dopey rhetoric that suggests if we could just cut enough “pork” from the federal government, everyone’s problems will be solved.

Some suggest that Bush, while bearing some responsibility, is bearing an unfair amount of the public’s anger—that his symbolic role as leader of the nation is causing people to tie him to the events in the Gulf in ways that aren’t fully justified.

Well, he who lives by the symbol dies by the symbol. His is a presidency that is based on symbolic transfer of emotions. Had 9/11 not happened, would Bush have been awarded the mantle of a valiant leader (which he was almost immediately, in an understandable sense of patriotism and loyalty right after the attacks)? There was precious little Bush did to deserve such accolades, but he accepted them and ran.

Ran all the way to Iraq—a country invaded only because of the ability of the Bush administration to symbolically associate Saddam Hussein with 9/11. Even when such ties were shown to be demonstrably untrue, and when none of the dreaded (and promised) WMDs were discovered, the Bush administration has continued to use rhetoric that is intended to transfer fear and anger about terrorist attacks to the war in Iraq.

Bush owes his second term and the original (and, thankfully, eroded) support of the American people for his war of choice in the Middle East to the symbolic transfer of emotions to his cause without any facts to support the beliefs that go along with them. That
Bush’s incredible shrinking presidency is due in part to the symbolic association of catastrophes with his administration’s poor leadership is hardly unfair, “for they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." ~ Hosea 8:7.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.65


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