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George Bush's Monica
Jon Stewart's got it just right:

"The real question is, in the four years since 9/11, you have to ask yourself: Has the government's advancements, procedures, etc. made us safer, given us more comfort that they will have an effective, or more effective, response to catastrophic events? And I think it's very clear that the answer is 'Oh sh[bleep]t, we're in trouble.'

"Now, for people who are saying, 'Well, stop pointing fingers at the President. Left-wing media is being too hard.' No. Shut up. No. This is inarguably, inarguably a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government.

"Now, now, this is [audience applause], remember when Bill Clinton, I don't know if you remember this, when Bill Clinton went out with Monica Lewinsky? That was inarguably a failure of judgment at the top. Democrats had to come out and risk losing credibility if they did not condemn Bill Clinton for this behavior. I believe Republicans are in the same position right now. And I will say this, Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. One difference, and I'll say this, the only difference is this: That tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina. That is the only difference."

Posted by aalkon at September 10, 2005 8:41 AM

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This disaster was primarily due to bungling at the city and state level. There may have been problems at FEMA, but the kneejerk response to blame Bush makes me wary to accept any of the criticism coming from you and any other liberals.

Also, you either don't know or are intentionally ignoring the fact that FEMA is not a first responder and that the State and city are responsible for responding to diasters within the first 72 hours. Also, Senator Joe Lieberman (a Democrat) is most responsible for moving FEMA under DHS (it was his idea) and he's the chairman of the committee that approved of Mike Brown's nomination to head FEMA. Lieberman is a good guy. I don't think he'd allow an incompetent to head FEMA, but maybe I'm wrong. You tell me.

Also, I bet you're like most Americans in that you don't have 3 days worth of non-perishable food and water in your house and car. I mean stuff you can grab and go in an emergency if you need to evacuate. Not the normal foodstuff in your pantry. In other words, you place too much faith in the Federal government to save your ass instead of looking out for number one yourself.

Posted by: nashbonne at September 10, 2005 8:34 AM

And of course, Joe Leiberman is the man we call to defend the liberal agenda when Michael Moore isn't available.

If I hear one more person try and place blame on the city itself, I'll lose my fucking head. If we're going to get into the game of "you try and respond to disaster! It's so hard!" why not start with the residents of the city that is now a fucking ghost town. It's a hurricane, not a cocktail party. Im going to go ahead and give New Orleans the benefit of a doubt that not a whole lot of planning could have taken place directly beforehand.

This is an issue of response. I'll give you one guess as to whose job it is to respond to national disasters.

(you know, when the national guard is, um, overseas)

Posted by: Jake at September 10, 2005 10:18 AM

Jake, you might want to check this article by James S. Robbins (if you are willing to read the National Review) for statistics on our troops and the national guard here in the US and Iraq: (My comment is only addressing the last sentence of your comment on troop/guard availability and Iraq, not the response issue in Amy's post.)

...Take the Army for example. There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.

That’s all? Yes, 10.2 percent. That datum is significant in itself, a good one to keep handy the next time someone talks about how our forces are stretched too thin, our troops are at the breaking point, and so forth. If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent...


...According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies...


http://www.nationalreview.com/robbins/robbins200509020719.asp

Posted by: Claire at September 10, 2005 11:08 AM

For the last time, the Posse Comitas act prevents the Federal Government from being a first responder to any natural disaster, unless authorized by THE GOVERNOR. Please see Haley Barbour's response in Miss. for an effective representation of how a real state government handles potential disasters, and attempts to keep innocents out of harm's way. Does anyone actually care enough to read the laws of the land in these cases, or do you prefer to traffic in conspiracy theories or half - baked lies?

Yes, Bush and FEMA were terrible in their own responses to this disaster, but just as success has many fathers and failures have none, the local response to this event borders on criminal.

Posted by: Dmac at September 10, 2005 11:37 AM

What follows is not meant to get Bush off the hook. His failure to go directly to the Gulf from Texas was inexplicable, as was taking a vacation during a war. Wouldn't you presume that Jeb and George had discussed Katrina on the phone a time or two in the preceeding week? And how did Bush 43, a close and astute student of the Presidency during the terms of Reagan and Bush 41, fail to learn the lessons of hurricanes Hugo and Andrew during his father's presidency? There's no excuse for filling emergency response positions with Arabian-horse-loving patrons. Dubya deserves whatever happens to his popularity and his place in history.

And yet. The federal response to this thing happened about as fast as it had in Andrew and other cases. Kausfiles (with others) has been keeping a list of collisions between federal, state and local authorities. It ain't pretty.

Exactly how responsible are we for one another? In practice, we never seem to come through for each other in individual hazards, especially for the poor and unconnected. Of course when aa tsunami hits Malibu, Jennifer Anniston will call few lawyer friends in Beverly Hills, and she'll get the money back for her beach house. Wealth is a force of nature that way. But is there any reason to think the federal goverment is going to move faster when the Big one hits LA? Local hazards (quake zones, hurricanes, etc,) should be locally appraised and locally insured.

Do we really want to rebuild New Orleans? Word came from Ukraine this week that Chernobyl's poisoning was not as bad as was feared. But we can't yet estimate the pollution damage to the Gulf unleashed by this flooding. It's going to be a hideous place to live for a long time. And after it dries, it's still six feet below sea level. Do we really want to do Terry Schiavo on this town?

Nature scratches her back, and all is lost.

Posted by: Crid at September 10, 2005 2:09 PM

On the subject of Bush, there's a ton of blame to go around, and while he and FEMA certainly deserve their share, the local NOLA politicians deserve the bulk of the scorn in my opinion.

One could argue that the local pols should've improved the city's defenses a long time ago by issuing bonds to finance their own flood control measures. It's also been said that they waited too long to order an evacuation for a variety of political, legal, and financial reasons. But beyond all of that, these are people who had a poor evacuation plan to begin with, but then didn't even follow that plan. No, instead they chose the even worse option of shoving everyone into the Superdome and the convention center, even though neither had been equipped as shelters. But because we don't want to be seen as blaming the victim, and because Bush is always an easy target (his own fault, for the most part), we don't get a true picture of the responsibility for this tragedy.

I am no fan of George Bush - I voted for Kerry, actually. But I lived in NOLA for almost 2 years and I know how incompetent the local government there is. Their solution to every problem is to ignore it and wait for the federal government to take care of it (if ever) - and we saw that attitude play out in all of this. I don't know if being a poor leader makes George Bush negligent. But I do know for certain that the people of NOLA have kept negligent (and many times corrupt) politicians in office, with this current group being no different.

Anyway, it's easy to blame Bush, and hard to blame those who now have nothing left. But just because an answer is easy, that doesn't always make it right.

Posted by: Jason Ginsburg at September 10, 2005 2:10 PM

Here's a fine excerpt for you:

"Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the Mayor of New Orleans in coordination with the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the OEP Shelter Coordinator."

Gee, I never knew that Mr. Clinton "went out" with Ms. Lewinski. Where did they go, the sock hop? That's so cute!

Posted by: Radwaste at September 10, 2005 2:17 PM

But Rad, he's not responsible for anything, he's just the... Mayor!

Speaking of Clinton, the MSM's complete silence on his recent defense of this administration's actions speak volumes. Good Lord, even James Carville upbraided a CNN anchor for his vapidity and ignorance on the subject.

Posted by: Dmac at September 10, 2005 2:25 PM

Plus, really, do you want to follow John Stewart's lead on anything? The guy's a comedian. Nothing wrong with it, but it means he's in the business of pleasing audiences, which is not the same thing as having insight or good judgment. The few times he's ever approached taking a stand on something, he's left plenty of room to backpedal, especially by saying "Hey, I'm just in show business."

I gots no TV in my home, and it's been interesting in recent years to see this guy's popularity bloom through the prism of the internet. Don't get me wrong, all my favorite people are smartasses. But in analysis of matters like this, do you really want to hitch the wagon to a personality who's in the BUSINESS of snark?

Posted by: Crid at September 10, 2005 3:06 PM

Crid writes:

Plus, really, do you want to follow John Stewart's lead on anything? The guy's a comedian. Nothing wrong with it, but it means he's in the business of pleasing audiences, which is not the same thing as having insight or good judgment. The few times he's ever approached taking a stand on something, he's left plenty of room to backpedal, especially by saying "Hey, I'm just in show business."

Hey, it works for Rush Limbaugh, doesn't it? He's just an entertainer, so he says. Neither Stewart nor Limbaugh (nor Coulter, nor Moore, nor Hannity, nor Franken) are comedians or entertainers. They are thinly disguised propagandists, shills for their own side of political discourse.

Posted by: Patrick at September 11, 2005 5:28 AM

Yes, Patrick, which is why, when pundits raise an issue in that entertaining way they have, it is still our duty to determine how much of their speil is editorial and how much is factual. That's why my link is to the City of New Orleans official site.

Those who read it find out immediately that the City paid someone to write a document they never intended to follow.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 11, 2005 7:56 AM

Not to get off - topic too much here, but while Stewart's OK, Kilbourne was a much better host in the show's early days. He made fun of everyone, no matter their political leanings. Most of his sarcasm was directed at Hollywood - which Stewart targets less often, because he's a creature of it.

Posted by: Dmac at September 11, 2005 8:15 AM

> Hey, it works for Rush Limbaugh, doesn't it?

Agreed, to a point: I don't take ANY of the people you mention very seriously.

On the other hand, Limbough declared his allegiances the day he signed on. He didn't say "I'm a personable, cute broadcaster who likes to laugh, and here are some thoughts about politics." Limbaugh's approach was "I'm a Republican, I'm going to talk about why for three hours a day, and my skills as an entertainer will be apparent to those who listen." Interesting things happen to guy who put themselves on the air for 15 hours a week: They're compelled to support their reasoning in copious detail. (My favorite example of this in recent years is Loveline [10 hrs/week]. Their personalities have really changed over the years.)

Stewart can't afford to do that. He's on 20 minutes a day, so he maintains a polished look. He's still trying to appeal to the broadest possible market... More than anything, he wants (like all tv comedians) to be popular. So his jokes suggest an everyman's perspective. But from what I've seen, his politics end where his jokes run out, which is certainly not the case with Limbaugh.

Furthermore, Steward dwells in the overlap of three populations: young people; people who watch a lot of TV; and people who like to respond to things with their emotions.

Let's none of us be surprised if they don't turn into a huge voting block for 2008 the way Limbaugh's did during GHWB's term. Nor if Stewart doesn't turn into the Johnny Carson of his generation.

Posted by: Crid at September 11, 2005 10:24 AM

Read this:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/09/11/wkat211.xml


It's NOT from a conservative.

PS- How come the comments sometimes won't accept HTML links?

Posted by: Crid at September 11, 2005 1:22 PM

Not sure why. Sometimes might be something block by my spam filter, MTblacklist. Won't allow blogspot links -- they're on the master blacklist, I think. I went through and erased some stuff from my own blacklist file in hopes of preventing comment denial to those who aren't spammers. Sorry...I'm trying! But, great to have you back...discussion much more interesting with you here.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 11, 2005 1:26 PM

Interesting piece, Crid. And I'm not a liberal, by the way. I'm a real conservative - the kind that doesn't want the government meddling in people's personal affairs or putting out religious symbols in public places.

Moreover, on the "deer in headlights" dummies in the story, I can't help but wonder if the nonthink promoted by religion plays a part in that: "Don't think, think what we tell you to think."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 11, 2005 1:36 PM

"Limbough declared his allegiances the day he signed on."

Not exactly. He copped to disliking liberals, but for the longest time he refused to be labeled as a Republican.

And I'm sorry, but Stewart is not in the same category, as Franken, Limbaugh, Coulter and other formal political pundits. I'd put him more in the same category as Colin Quinn or Bill Maher, as comedians who happen to get political at times. Coulter, Randi Rhodes, and so on are political commentators who occasionally try to be funny. Usually failing.

Posted by: LYT at September 11, 2005 2:27 PM

> I can't help but wonder if the nonthink
> promoted by religion plays a part in that

Life in NOLA for poor blacks has been shitty. BEFORE Katrina. They got no respect from local, state, or federal authority. Schools were incompetent, police were debauched. Their city was home to no national corporations. Their murder rate was ten times the national average. The Winchester piece suggests, in a convincing but non-Murray's-Bell-Curve kind of way, that important currents of discipline and clarity had been drained from that population.

When people are hurting that badly, we can't begrudge them the analgesic of religion. Most of them couldn't afford to go down to the Quarter and drown their sorrows in a Hurricane from Pat O'briens.


The Washington Post and her organs have become a clearinghouse for Don't Rebuild rhetoric:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2125810/?nav=fix

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/09/AR2005090902448.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/05/AR2005090501034.html

A cynic with a taste for conspiracy might think this is one corrupt, southern swamp city kicking another while it's down. The Big Easy was a flawed yet precious jewel, but it can't be repolished and we probably shouldn't try. Same with the Mississippi coast, which held its own, ahem, attractions: The Jefferson Davis home and 'Presidential Library' were demolished along with the cheapjack casino boats.


> for the longest time he refused
> to be labeled as a Republican.

I didn't know, never been a Limbaugh fan... At least until he copped to drug abuse. But he's always been conservative, right? His listeners must have known. About being Republican I mean. Some probably knew about the opiates too.

> political commentators who occasionally
> try to be funny. Usually failing.

The funny guys usually fail to be convincingly political. Real quick, in a short sentence, what is the nature of Maher's insight? (And if you have an answer for that, you're next going to be asked about Huffington's, Dahlink.) IJS, there's something to be said for distinguishing the expectations we bring to each source. Let's remember that a comedian's first request is "Love me!" Kaus and Coulter and George Will and Molly Ivins aren't QUITE so needy.


PS- Winchester's book on Krakatoa is excellent

Posted by: Crid at September 11, 2005 4:16 PM

Charles Dickens was just a comedian. You should not take him too seriously.

Posted by: John O at September 12, 2005 3:21 PM

At this point, I believe we should be less concerned with finger-pointing and more concerned with helping the victims. There are hundreds of Katrina refugees here in California. Neighborhood Legal Services of the San Fernando Valley is an organization helping people trying to prove their identities without any documentation, for example. Donations of food, blankets, clothing, etc. are readily being accepted by many local charities for Katrina victims. There are a number of benefits happening around town - usually hosted by someone who has family in NOLA (i.e., the band Carbon 9 did a benefit at Paladino's in Tarzana on Sunday). Why would anyone find it easy to sit back in his/her armchair, with running water, food in his/her pantry, only having to do without power for a couple of hours, and judge who is responsible for this? Believe me, there will be plenty of time for that once the crisis has passed!

Now is the time for us to *ignore* what politicians are doing and take personal responsibility to help those in need.

I'm getting off my soapbox now to pack it full of canned goods. Have a nice day.

Posted by: Goddyss at September 13, 2005 4:51 PM

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