Sunday, September 04, 2005

Has The Bush Administration Failed (Again) By Being Reactionary?

The Bush Administration will be remembered, in part, for how it handled two enormous catastrophes on U.S. soil.

Will it be remembered favorably?

An argument can be made that with regard to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the devastation caused several days ago by Hurricane Katrina, the Bush Administration chose to be reactive, rather than proactive.

This is not to say that the administration, even if it had acted perfectly, would have been able to stop the terrorist attacks, or greatly changed the outcome of Katrina.

But at the same time, questions are being raised as to how the administration acted prior to each event -- questions that lead JABBS to wonder whether this administration is capable of true "homeland security."

***

Americans learned during the 9/11 Commission hearings that the Aug. 6, 2001 presidential daily briefing contained a two-page section titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US."

Then National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice -- in defending the administration failing to be proactive in response to the briefing -- told the commission that the briefing contained mostly "historical" information. Critics of the administration charge that the briefing laid out Bin Laden's current gameplan -- including his desire to hijack airplanes -- which was ultimately executed on Sept. 11.

Rice, of course, was to give a speech on Sept. 11 regarding U.S. security. The speech, never presented, only mentioned terrorism in passing, and did not reference Al Qaeda. For critics of the administration, there was perhaps no greater piece of evidence to show that the administration was not acting proactively on the Al Qaeda threat.

Had the administration acted proactively -- taken measures to intercept a terror cell within the U.S., tracked down known Al Qaeda members (including ones who were listed in telephone books) -- perhaps the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would have been averted. There's no way to know for sure, of course.

But by not acting proactively, the administration gave itself no chance to stop the course of events.

***

Fast forward to the Katrina catastrophe. The massive hurricane -- predicted to be the worst in four decades -- was not a secret. It had been forecast for several days. New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin had ordered a citywide evacuation.

So why did the Bush Administration wait until Wednesday to announce its relief plan?

For a month, the Bush Administration spun that the president was able to conduct all necessary business during his five-week vacation at the "Western White House," in Crawford, Texas. Either that spin was a lie, or more likely, the Bush Administration did not see the need to be proactive in dealing with the potential Gulf Coast devastation.

Why didn't President Bush bring the necessary officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Saturday or Sunday -- before Katrina struck -- to forge a plan? Why weren't supplies -- food, water and medicine -- in place in advance? Why weren't National Guard called upon to assist with the evacuation -- specifically the elderly and infirmed, many of whom were incapable of leaving the city on their own? Why weren't National Guard prepared to enter New Orleans and other Gulf Coast spots as soon as the hurricane passed?

(As an aside, how is it possible that multiple news networks were able to land not only reporters and cameramen, but senior anchors, on the ground along the Gulf Coast, even as the administration made excuses as to why supplies had not arrived in the city?)

Beyond its failure to act proactively in the days leading to the devastation, there's evidence suggesting that the administration diverted money, starting in 2003, to the Iraq War from a decade-long federally backed effort to strengthen New Orleans' east bank hurricane levees. The Senate had planned to restore some of the cuts in the 2006 budget -- but Katrina hit first.

Had the Bush Administration acted proactively, perhaps there would not be hundreds, if not thousands, of dead Americans as a result of the Hurricane. There's no way to know for sure, of course.

But by not acting proactively, the administration gave itself no chance to stop the course of events.

***

The other similarity from 2001 and now is the desire among conservatives to blame anyone but the administration.

In 2001, the conservative noise machine pointed fingers at Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, Jamie Gorelick and others. Through some bizarre logic, some conservatives said that Clinton should be held responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing -- it came under his watch -- and also the 2001 terrorist attacks, since, in theory, Al Qaeda had begun planning the attacks under Clinton's watch.

Read some conservative pundits today, and the blame for the Gulf Coast devastation should go to Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, and Nagin, New Orleans' Democratic mayor. (Conservatives lay no such blame on Mississippi and Alabama's Republican governors.) Some pundits even want to blame ... Bill Clinton.

The "blame any Democrat" policy (aka "blame anyone but Bush") reverberates throughout the conservative noise machine, just as it did in 2001.

That conservative spin helped get Bush re-elected in 2004. Time will tell whether it is able to change the disappointment, and even anger, among many Americans that the administration reacted too slowly and ineptly in dealing with Katrina.

***

What now?

The New York Daily News may have said it best in a Sept. 2 editorial: "But what is already more than clear is that the nation's disaster-preparedness mechanisms do not appear to be in the hands of officials who know how to run them."

The fact that President Bush -- and a host of Republican leaders -- have publicly criticized the post-Katrina relief effort is a start. At least Americans don't have to deal with the rampant spin (aka denial) that led The Daily Show's Jon Stewart to wonder recently if there is any screw-up the administration can't spin to make it seem like everything went as planned.

But can that admittance that a problem exists translate into proactive efforts when the next (natural or terrorist) catastrophe occurs on U.S. soil? That will be the real test for this administration.

14 Comments:

Blogger duwbryd said...

I emailed the president that he is the most incompetant president in US history. Of course, they sent me an email back thanking me for my comment and that Bush appreciates my comments. I knew he was an incompetant when I voted against him. All thoughs starry eyes fundamentalist Christians thought he was the second comming of christ. I think many of them still think he is. No wonder they accept that christian crap so readily. If they believe in Bush, they will believe in anything.

5:44 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

The Jesusistanis do love a good Apocalypse, and El Shrubbo has certainly been delivering them for years...

The city of New Orleans is collateral damage from El Shrubbo's Great Patriotic War. There is no way to separate the war from what happened to the city-it can be argued (and is being argued) that reinforcing the levees would have meant little in the face of the storm's fury, but the fact that the break occurred after the storm had passed strongly suggests that reinforcement would have made a huge difference.

In addition, the Flying Monkey Brigade's clamoring to blame any and every Democrat for the monstrous post-storm failure is an incredible exercise in willfully ignoring everything their leader said about how much better the Federal Government is prepared to respond to disasters. Those of us who have seen FEMA rise to the challenge in the past know that this is, without doubt, the most inept response by Federal authorities in contemporary history-maybe of all time. All that money we spent on "homeland security" appears to have bought us damn all.

The faithful who insist on yet again trying to excuse El Shrubbo have de facto written off thousands of Americans in their quest to whitewash the leader. How many others must die before they will admit what is so blatantly obvious?

9:17 AM  
Anonymous opihimoimoi said...

Bush is a RunA Way Puppet....uncontrolable, indifferent, thinks he
can do no wrong....

He has foresaken advice from the usual sources, prolly was irritating to him....

Karen is unable to woo him back to the advice table

Rove is beside himself as guilt feelings mount and his escape seems likely to be booted/impeached and a Pardon would become impossible...

12:07 PM  
Anonymous erika said...

Bush's Legacy is 20 feet below the flooding in NO
He's the worst president this country has ever had. No exceptions.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous GWBush said...

It's the Democrats and FDR's fault!
If Rossevelt had not raised expectations with the TVA and rural electrification in the 1930s, all them black fellas in the south wouldn't complain about a lack of food and water and tarpaper shacks to huddle under.
Damn them Democrats!

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Though I agree that the adminstration's reaction has not been perfect, much of the blame appears to lie with state and local governments. I recently read through the plan for Southeast Louisiana that was supposed to be put into effect assuming such a hurricane and it was nowhere near fulfilled. There is a full breakdown on my blog.

That is all, let the Bush-bashing continue.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous CSC5502D said...

LOL, oooh, the famous memo that says they were determined to attack us. What was your first clue, the first bombing, the Khobar bombing, the embassy bombings, the Cole bombing......

That's like saying the cops saw a story in the paper that the Crips were determined to attack the Bloods and didn't stop it. Fucking duh!

The cops know that every single day criminals are "determined" to steal cars, rob people, rob banks, etc.

Stupid cops. Being reactionary and all.

You people are so damned stupid lol.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Mayor of New Orleans did not call for evacuations until it was too late. The link you provided was dated SUNDAY. The hurricane hit MONDAY. In fact, the Director of the National Hurricane Center called the Mayor at his home on Saturday night urging the Mayor to call for evacuations. See here under "Mayor Criticized":
http://www.philly.com/mld/miamiherald/news/special_packages/5min/12505019.htm
As to the President being proactive: the President requested that the Governor of Louisiana let him Federalize the evacuation of New Orleans on FRIDAY. See here in the 6th paragraph: http://www.philly.com/mld/miamiherald/news/special_packages/5min/12505019.htm
She refused.

6:50 PM  
Blogger GEA3 said...

Jabbs,

Thanks for the link to my site. One subtle correction, my blog does not blame Bill Clinton for anything related to Katrina.

Not sure if you have seen the latest:

http://eurota.blogspot.com/2005/09/katrina-feet-on-ground.html

Fortunately most Americans are what I like to call "rational".

6:51 PM  
Blogger David R. Mark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

To anonymous above, you are answering a different question.

The question is whether the Bush Administration could have been more proactive. You are responding by saying the mayor screwed up.

Maybe the mayor screwed up ... too. That doesn't mean that Bush did a good job, either.

I agree with one point JABBS made. Bush should have been on the TV on Saturday, from Crawford, in primetime, to state that all Gulf Coast residents should evacuate. And even if Blanco didn't want the federal government to take over, the Bush administration should have coordinated to remove the elderly and sick, especially those in critical care in New Orleans' hospitals.

It doesn't look right to see Bush still on vacation as a national emergency occurs, or for Condi Rice to be taking in a Broadway show the day after the hurricane hit. It makes it seem like this was a low priority.

9:56 PM  
Blogger David R. Mark said...

Eurota, I removed the link.

I linked to your page because you provided an exhaustive review of how Clinton handled the levee project during his presidency. My reaction was that you were trying to suggest that Clinton gave the project the same treatment as Bush, which to me was spreading the blame for the levee breaking.

If I misunderstood your intent, I apologize.

10:00 PM  
Blogger GEA3 said...

David,

No need to apologize. My post was an effort to provide context to the whole "Blame Bush" mantra.

The roots go way back. Past Bush, past Clinton, and on down the line.

Best.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen to all this. Looking forward to the next JABBS, which should focus on how they're waking up b/c they're seeing it has a political impact. From the NYT a few days ago: "These officials said that Mr. Bush and his political aides rapidly changed course in what they acknowledged was a belated realization of the situation's political ramifications."

It's always the politics. And also maybe throw in a shoutout to Anderson Cooper and even Shepard Smith, both of whome have been excellent in the last several days, particularly Smith telling off Hannity on the air. Hannity went back to trying to say that we need to put this in perspective and Smith lashed out, "This is perspective, Shawn! This is all the perspective you need!"

10:58 AM  

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