More Katrina Punditry

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Disasters, Right Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

Today, we’re going to have some fun with Renew America columnist Karen Pittman, living proof that beauties and brains tend not to run together.  Or not run at all. 

Keep in mind as you read that, according to her bio, she’s known as the "Lay’s Potato Chip of political punditry".  Which is saying something.

I have heard it all now. While illegally threatening the President of the United States with bodily harm on ABC’s This Week, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) accused him of visiting hurricane-decimated Louisiana merely in order to stage a "photo-op." She ranted and raved hysterically during her appearance on the televised news show last Sunday, at one point bursting into tears. No doubt about it — her levee broke, big(easy)-time.

Yes, Mary Landrieu was crying out of self-interest.

It’s always something.

Who let Emily Litella into the room?

If President Bush works out, he exercises too much. It never occurs that perhaps this is his only means of relieving the enormous stress and pressure he’s under.

I’ve written — and certainly read — many many many criticisms of Bush, but not once (to my knowledge) has their been a complaint about Bush "exercising too much".

And now comes this latest bit of antic fabrication, straight from the big brassy mouth of a bureaucratic bass caught in Katrina’s rip current.

A lot of loony alliteration.

If he tours the hurricane-ravaged coast, he’s posing for a photo-op. If he stays away, he doesn’t care, isn’t "personally engaged," and is perpetrating nothing short of indirect "murder."

Yes, what a Hobson’s choice.  Hey.  Perhaps he should have been "personaly engaged" closer to (or even before) the disaster struck!

Sure, Mary, why not? Just pile on! Since George Bush is literally the most convenient scapegoat on the planet, why not blame him for the whole dam thing?

Oh, I get it!  "Damn".  "Dam".  Cute.

For the love of jazz, did those levies not need shoring when Bill Clinton was President?

Clinton raised levies, remember?  Bush cut them.  But, to be honest, I’m not sure what taxes have to do with Katrina.  Do you perhaps mean "levees"?

By most estimates, any effective reinforcement of the canal system there would have taken at least a decade or two, probably more, to complete.

Much longer if you deny the funds to get them started, as Bush did.  Of course, one might think that in a post-9/11 world, with a President who ran on a platform of protecting America, Bush would have done all he can to see that the levees were reinforced.

Besides, I call bullshit.  "Decade or two"?  No public works project has ever taken that long.  Democracy in Iraq, on the other hand . . .

How then could Bush have fixed the whole dam problem in a lousy five years, while waging war?

For starters, by not waging war and instead, acknowledging the dam problem.  Or, at a minimum, appointing administrators who know what they are doing, rather than looking for some reason to let the rich have lower taxes. 

Is it any wonder New Orleans is now a literal cesspool, considering it has been one figuratively for as long as anybody can remember?

In other words: "Nothing’s changed, so why is everybody so upset?"

Less absurd but more egregious is the charge being leveled at him by racist black demagogues like Al Sharpton. According to noted rapper-sociologist Kanye (Noyekant) West, "George Bush doesn’t care about black people."

Well, maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t.

That’s for me to know, and you to find out.  Nyah!

What he thinks matters less than what he does.

As long as he’s not actually lynching people, it’s fine to be a racist.

As relentlessly as politicians pander to minority groups, the notion that any pol worth his weight in votes would purposely neglect a powerful constituency is patently absurd.

I have two words for you, Karen: Southern Strategy.

Even if George Bush were a racist, he is no fool, and is far too wizened politically to commit so flagrant an act of self-destruction. The political consequences for such behavior would simply be too dire.

What political consequences are there for someone who never has to run for election again?

Or, to put it another way: If he refuses to seal the borders for fear of losing Latino support, why on earth would he knowingly encourage or permit the targeted genocide of impoverished African-Americans in New Orleans?

Right.  Because, as we all know, impoverished African-Americans vote overwhelming for conservative Republicans.  Why would Bush want to alienate them?

Furthermore, the Crescent City wasn’t built in a day. How, then, can it be salvaged in one?

Karen makes a salient point here.  To everyone clammoring for New Orleans to be built in a day, pay attention!

If, with prior warning and advance planning, Mayor Nagin and other local and state officials couldn’t figure out a way to evacuate their own city in three days, with all of its infrastructure intact, how can they reasonably expect the feds to rescue every last straggler, put out every raging fire, tamp down all the senseless looting and shooting, and seal nearly 1000 total feet of breached levee, with the city drowning and de-nerved, in less?

Karen ignores the inconvenient fact that the call for evacuation was not made until Katrina became a category 4 hurricane, less than 12 hours before it hit.

But then again, nobody was expecting the feds to perform miracles.  We just were expecting them to be prepared to move in and feed people as soon as possible.  However, as we now know, the feds weren’t even aware that tens of thousands of people were seeking refuge in the Superdome until two days after the hurricane hit, even though every newspaper and news station and been reporting it endlessly.

Nagin and local pols can’t say they weren’t told. In a watershed article published in Risk & Insurance in December of 2000 by Lori Widmer (, Shea Penland, geologist and professor at the University of New Orleans, reveals himself to be a veritable Cassandra: "When we get the big hurricane and there are 10,000 people dead, the city government’s been relocated to the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, refugee camps have been set up and there are $10 billion plus in losses, what then?" he queries. Penland laments the Francophile city’s laissez faire attitude, which in the end proved fatal: "These are things I’ve been preaching for a number of years. This town has never planned ahead. They’ve always reacted and not pro-acted."

This is a flat-out lie.  The local politicians had been lobbying for years to get the money to fix and upgrade the levees.  It was the federal government who said "no".  And it was Bush who said that "nobody" expected the levees to break.

Notice what Penland does not do — blame the feds for a localized problem.

Notice what Karen does not do — read in its entirety the article she links to.   If she had, she would know that the problems with the levees and canals was being addressed under the auspices of the South East Louisiana Urban Flood Control Program, which received billions of dollars from the federal government for repair and improvement (although, of course, it received far less than what was required).

Clearly, what happened in New Orleans is no more of a "localized problem" than what happened in the World Trade Center, or aliens illegally crossing the border in Texas.

Ultimately, there’s no getting around the fact that New Orleans is responsible for itself.

Why does Karen hate America?  This country — its states and its people — are all inextricably interconnected — economically, as well as morally.  I guess if you die or suffer, you’re no longer American.

All across this country, cities and municipalities face their own peculiar exigencies, and must reckon with them themselves, with limited or no federal aid.

Name one.

San Francisco is at high risk for sustaining a major, devastating earthquake. If it does, will that act of God be magically rendered an act of George too?

No, but a failure to respond to an act of God will be.

Should the federal government not also subsidize reinforcement of that city’s buildings and infrastructure, and if so, to what extent?

They already have their chips in the pot, sweetie.

How much responsibility do state and local entities bear for their own disaster prevention, preparedness, and funding?

A lot (see former link).  But not the full burden.

I mean, my goodness, if you choose to live in Frisco, you’d better have quake insurance or learn to sleep soundly without it. You know that going in. And you learn very quickly to accept the grim reality that if the Big One does hit and you die, you die. You won’t get time to evacuate.

But can’t the same thing be said for terrorism?  Didn’t you just say it was an inevitability that it was going to happen?  Why aren’t you arguing that we should be "on our own" in that situation, too?

The bottom line is, if the federal government subsidizes every high-risk community, it will go broke in no time. Just ponder for a moment all that has happened in the past half-decade alone: Coordinated terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, and now, after numerous severe storms in Florida that combined to wreak costly havoc, a calamitous hurricane on the Gulf Coast.

And yet, even with tax cuts, the government’s not broke.  So that’s, you know, not making your point very well.

When 9/11 occurred, armchair quarterbacks everywhere rose up from their easy chairs and demanded accountability.

"Armchair quarterbacks" is an expression.  They aren’t literally in easy chairs.

Why were we asleep at the wheel while this storm was brewing in the Afghan desert?

Block those metaphors!

Why were we unwilling to spare no expense to prevent it?

As I recall, when Clinton bombed al Qaeda targets, he was widely criticized by the right, who claimed he was trying to distract attention away from Monica Lewinsky.

And now that nature itself has dealt New Orleans a warrior’s blow, the journalist-naysayers are whining and nagging, "Why was the federal government spending all its time, money, and energy fighting the war on terror when it knew all along that The Big Easy was doomed to drown?"

And is our choice as stark, really — as black-and-white (if you’ll pardon the pun) — as Bush’s most vehement critics would have us believe?

No.  But assuming BOTH are inportant, should we be cutting taxes and doing BOTH on the cheap?  Because what we end up with is a badly-fought under-armored war AND no protection at home from natural or man-made disasters.

Should we neglect to defend ourselves abroad so that we can amass enormous numbers of troops stateside, just in case a natural disaster happens?

I can’t get past the phrase "defend ourselves abroad".  We’re not "abroad".  We’re here!  You get that?  See, if we brought the troops stateside, we wouldn”t have to "defend ourselves abroad".  And they would be here when the next disaster happens (like San Francisco, as you predict). 

And we’re not defending ourselves at this point; we’re defending Iraqis.

I would like Karen to be in the next earthquake.  And as she trapped in some rubble, dehydrating and dying, I’m sure she’ll be glad that the security infrastructure is overseas building schools in Iraq instead of pulling her sorry ass to safety.

Should we not exert ourselves in the world so that we can have the ever-ready capability of instantly marshalling all of our resources in our own country in the event that a given outcome occurs?

I don’t know, Karen.  If your house is on fire, do you get the fire extinguisher, or do you exert yourself into your neighbors’ domestic squabbles?

(And remember, this is slim comfort at best, since there is no such thing as perfect preparedness.)

So why bother to prepare at all, right?

What happens if we are attacked?

Here?  Not much, apparently.  So much for things changing because of 9/11.

Now let me ask you this.  Suppose it wasn’t a hurricane that caused the levee to break, but a boat full of explosives being driven by an al Qaeda operative?  Is the New Orleanians still on their own?

What — we don’t avenge an act of aggression because we might be needed here?

Oh, dear.  And what was Iraq’s act of aggression?  And don’t say 9/11, because that gets you sent to the loony bin pile.

But let’s pretend that we are in Iraq to avenge some act of aggression.  Wouldn’t the terrrorists be laughing their assses off, knowing that an untold of Americans died because we wasted resources fighting them (and losing), rather than protecting ourselves from predicateble natural disasters that meny saw coming?

Like bag upon bag of sand deposited in the levee’s breaches…

…so are the "Days of Our Lifes".

…disaster can always be piled upon disaster. Heck, for that matter, the terrorists could choose to kick us now, while we’re down.

Seems to me they don’t need to.

Whose fault would that be? Must it be anyone’s, other than theirs? As far as we’re concerned, maybe it’s just our own rotten luck or bad timing.

That’s one I have never heard before.  The U.S. has bad luck.  Nothing to be done, folks.  9/11 changed nothing.  Sweet dreams.

What all of the emergent criticism post-Katrina against this president’s prosecution of the war on terror seems to suggest (with the added fillip of hindsight) is that — oops! — as it turns out, he should not have undertaken to defend us overseas, after all.

There it is again, "defend us overseas".  WTF?!?

As for "hindsight", there were many of us who thought the Iraq War was a waste of time and resources before we went in there.

Instead, he should have been more attuned to domestic problems and potential natural disasters and less preoccupied with international imbroglios. (Never mind the limited central role the federal government is supposed to play in this aggregate of empowered states we call a republic…

(Never mind the expectation that a President should be able to handle issues that arise both foreign AND domestic.  Every President before Bush 43 seems to have been able to focus on more than one thing.  Bush, it seems, is like a child distracted by a shiny object).

…The preeminence of state and local governments in their own affairs is conveniently forgotten by the advocates of socialism who fuel these diatribes.)

Americans who don’t like to see thousands of Americans drown are just a bunch of commies.

In other words, he should have been more worried about a phantom problem over here than the very real one right in front of him.

That’s right.  Every summer, when the TV shows all those circles of clouds bearing down on the East Coast?  Those pictures are fake.  They’re phantoms.  You’re just imagining them.

Unlike the WMDs, which actually exist.

What choice did the man have, given the stakes and urgency of the moment? One has always to weigh the probabilities in life and make tough decisions based on what one can and cannot reasonably anticipate.

So we attack a country that never attacked us, based on a belief that they had weapons of mass destruction and were close to using them, while ignoring the unlikely possiblity that massive hurricanes could strike the U.S. mainland, even though they have do so every year.

And, while it is the federal government’s job, and thus the president’s, to ensure the safety of the republic, it is not its task, nor is it his, to make sure that every single state and local government is taking care of business and faithfully discharging its duties to its residents.

I with the latter part.  But the issue everyone is talking about is "the federal government’s job, and thus the president’s, to ensure the safety of the republic".

Given all this, then — given the choices and probabilities with which George W. Bush found himself confronted unawares on the morning of September 12, 2001 — what do you think was uppermost in his mind: Standing up as Commander-in-Chief for all the people of these United States (of which Louisiana, last I looked, was but one) …

Yeah.  Fuck Louisiana.  Who the hell does he think he is?

…by doing all he could to prevent another terrorist attack, or playing Lifeguard-in-Chief by single-handedly saving New Orleans? (And one is tempted here to add, "from itself.")

Single-handedly?  How about just making sure the people under him do their jobs?

After all, what is more likely — that the terrorists who have killed us already will kill us again, if given the chance, or that a Category 5 hurricane will wipe out a solitary city that is but one of many along a coastline stretching for thousands and thousands of miles?

It may not be a category 5, but the chances of a hurricane causing devestation is far more likely — and far more deadly — than a terrorist attack.  I know many Floridians who would agree with me.

If the Big One strikes California tomorrow, you can bet that out of the smoke and rubble will rise the clarion complaint: "Where was George W. Bush while all this was getting ready to happen to us?

Yeah, but the "Big One" is unlikely, right?

While he was waging ‘his war’ against terror and drying out Bourbon Street, he was ignoring our need for the kind of infrastructure that would hold out against the worst Mother Nature can give."

I guess maybe we should not have Social Security either, or Medicare, or other federal programs which assist people against natural events, like aging.

On and on it goes. In Washington, the blame game is the only game in town.

I’m glad to see that you’re above that, Karen.  Right from your first paragraph, you were above that.