Friday, September 09, 2005

Is President Bush Going to Fall on His Sword for FEMA Director Michael Brown?

Characterizing his most recent poll, John Zogby noted that President Bush "has managed to do early in his second term what his father did in just one term: Go from record high approval numbers in the aftermath of 9/11 to his present numbers in the low 40s."

Some poll high/lowlights:

  • Bush's approval rating is 41%, a new low.

  • Were it possible, Bush would lose an election versus any President since Carter.

  • 60% of people disapprove Bush's handling of the Katrina disaster.
I'm no Karl Rove (as always, cross thyself at the mention of his unholy name), but Bush needs to take some steps that both sides of the aisle recognize as constructive. Barring that, this could get ugly.


Andy said...

Did I say Bush's approval rating was 41%?

A Pew Research Center poll conducted on the same day as the Zogby poll has Bush's approval number at 40% and his hurricane disapproval number at 67%.

An AP/Ipsos poll also conducted early this week found Bush's job approval rating at 39%, with 52% of respondents disapproving of how Bush has handled the Katrina response and 70% disapproving how he has handled elevated gas prices.

Anonymous said...

If I was a public servant, I would just quit and go murder people and steal televisions -- to shield myself from criticism.

Andy said...

I like your comment, Anonymous. The Bush Administration views criticism in a similarly unhelpful light.

From my vantage, this administration disavows the idea that criticism of their policies or actions can ever be constructive — whether that criticism comes from the minority party, members of their own party, the press, citizens at large, or our allies.

From their view, people assemble neatly into two camps: Loyal, Good Soldiers who maintain the party line...

...and then there are people like Cindy Sheehan, like nearly every official who has left the administration, like Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, like me, like the 59,028,109 people who voted for John Kerry. From time to time, these people have the audicity to criticize and critique their government.

This motley crew's criticism is met with misdirection — the administration accuses critics of wanting to play politics, or start the Blame Game. Like you, they'd rather change the topic... if sufficiently distracting, they'd focus on the New Orleans Lord-of-the-Flies behavior. (BTW, threatening looters in front of the nation was one of Bush's first responses to the immerging disaster, so don't feel like the issue wasn't offered as a potential focus.)

Whatever the topic or crisis, this administration's policy has been to never apologize (with the exception Bush's May 5, 2004 apology for the Abu Gharib abuse) and to respond to critics as if they were not adults.

Now to your point : Do you wish that people paid more attention to the horrific crimes of opportunity committed in New Orleans over the last 10 days? Would this focus help our country respond to this Ragnarok? Would it teach us all something valuable about the Hobbesian state of nature? Do you feel like this focus would somehow validate your opinions about the urban poor? About the South?

I'll humor you: If you want to look to people whose response to this crisis was less productive than FEMA's or DHS's response, you could look at the people who — out of desparation and opportunity — were looting non-essential items or were engaging in utterly lawless behavior.

I hope this validation of our officials helps you rest well.

Anonymous said...

The men of New Orleans lost their city. I have compassion for them. But I'm not going to feel sorry for them or blame somebody else.

I do not want to help them avoid responsibility or rob them of their lives by shouting that Bush was to blame. We criticize the President for not owning his mistakes. Why not show regular folk the same respect? Why expect no more of adult males than we do of babies?

Anonymous said...

It is clear to me that the public has been so deeply intimidated by sociopaths that they have begun to turn against their civilized leaders. We are at the tipping point. Drug dealers who perpetrate and glorify gun violence are worshiped as heroes, while loving fathers who provide for and protect the public are attacked and belittled at every opportunity. Why?

In the summer of 1973, four hostages were taken in a botched bank robbery at Kreditbanken in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of their captivity, six days later, they actively resisted rescue. They refused to testify against their captors, raised money for their legal defense, and according to some reports one of the hostages eventually became engaged to one of her jailed captors.

Notorious in the United States is the case of Patty Hearst, who after being kidnapped and tortured by the Symbionese Liberation Army, took up arms and joined their cause, taking on the nom de guerre of “Tania” and helping the SLA rob banks.

This is the story of the modern democratic party. (For more on the "Stockholm Syndrome" see, from which I borrowed heavily.)

Garfield said...

Just a couple of comments of the words of Mr. Anon above:

"I do not want to help them avoid responsibility or rob them of their lives by shouting that Bush was to blame. We criticize the President for not owning his mistakes. Why not show regular folk the same respect? Why expect no more of adult males than we do of babies?"

If this were the Barrier Islands or South Beach, I'd support the above comments 100%. If you choose to build your home in the middle of a hurricane zone (there's a reason we call them barrier islands, people) and it gets blown down or flooded out, I will feel bad for you, but I will not absolve you of responsibility.

The situation is more complicated in New Orleans. For one, many of the people of New Orleans don't have a choice. They cannot pick up and move because they have no where to go and no way to get there if they did. For the largely poor and black men and women most affected, who were born into a life of few options and little aid from anyone, there is no choice. Its easy from the outside to say that they should have left, that they should have been better prepared. Try it.

I'm not going to say that 100% of the blame falls on the President. The state authorities are not blameless. Even Blanco, who I admire a great deal, could have been more constructive when the shit hit the fan. But the Bush administration is uniquely culpable for a number of reasons that don't apply to normal folks.

1) One of Bush's talking points during both elections was "responsibility and ownership." If he is going to use this line to criticise social welfare programs and democratic tax policies, then he better be ready to own up himself.

2) Again and again this administration has put itself beyond criticism or scrutiny. Just take a look at any press conference. The implied possition of this administration is that any questioning of their policies is un-american. As human beings we make mistakes. Even well funded administrations make mistakes. But this administration has created an environment in which you can't say anything even if you did have access to the data. Mistakes are thus never caught. This is inexcusible.

3) He had plenty of warning. FEMA itself (that is before he replaced its most experienced leaders with inexperienced political cronies and folded the whole thing into the DHS thus minimizing FEMAs direct access to the president and limiting the organization's ability to interact quickly and independently with state and federal officials) warned that a hurricane in New Orleans was one of the three worst things that could happen to this country. No action was taken.

Bush officals may claim that they had no idea the hurricane was as severe as it was, that they were prepared for a hurricane, but not one of this magnitude. Bullshit. We're you watching the news? I China where a delightful British man on CCTV 9 told the world that New Orleans was in deep shit. And even if the part line is true, why is it that state authorities were there in 24 hours, Canadian rescue forces were there in 36 hours, but federal troops did not arrive for FIVE DAYS.

4) Since 11 Sept 2001 Bush has been telling the country that he's preparing for a terrorist attack, that he will keep us safe when the shit hits the fan. He was re-elected on this platform. We paid him huge sums of money to keep us safe. He's been telling us that the Federal Government has out back. What happened? Bush won't even allow an external commission to look into the problem, much less acknowledge the possibility that maybe, just maybe, they dropped the ball a little.

4) Bush is the president of the United States. If there was ever a person who should be held to a higher standard, its him.

Danny Boy said...

That our government failed us w.r.t. Katrina is as settled as it is deeply troubling. But I'm looking toward the future. More specifically: how does an ownership society deal with natural disasters? Why, with Individual Disaster Preparedness Accounts (IDPAs), of course.

Individuals make deposits into these voluntary accounts so that they have money set aside to deal with natural disasters. That way, when you
hear about an earthquake or tsunami coming, you go down to your bank and withdraw the balance in your account to buy a bus ticket out of town.

If you have any extra funds in your account, you can use them to pay for a five-star hotel until you can return to your home, to hire private guards to protect your home, or to pay for your share of the user fees
imposed for calling out the National Guard (if they are available).

Why didn’t Individual Disaster Preparedness Accounts work in New Orleans? Well, one problem was that IDPAs are voluntary accounts, and not everyone had one. Also, some people’s IDPAs were just too small.
That’s because IDPAs (my mom called them “rainy day funds”) could be used for other purposes. Some people used their accounts to buy their first homes, some used them to pay for college, and some people just
blew them on “rainy day women.”

So what’s the solution? Clearly, we need to offer tax breaks for these individual disaster preparedness accounts. Contributions should, of course, be deductible, and the earnings on these accounts should be tax-exempt. Moreover, since it’s obvious from watching TV that a significant percentage of Americans are poor (12.7 nationally in 2004, according to the Census, and 27.9 percent in Orleans Parish [in 1999]),
we also need dollar-for-dollar tax credits to match deposits made by low-income individuals.

What about balancing the budget, you say? In an ownership society, the solution is always more tax cuts.

(With apology to Prof. Jonathan Foreman.)

Andy said...

FEMA Director Michael Brown Resigns Post

So, I guess that means that, no, Bush won't be falling on his sword for Mr. Brown.

krsna said...

In _Lord of the Flies_ they push a rock on the chubby kid. That kid is Michael Brown.