Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bush and Katrina: An absence of leadership?

An indignant editorial in today's Times notes an appalling lack of leadership on Katrina coming from the White House, particularly in light of President Bush's speech yesterday.

As you all know, I'm not exactly one of Bush's biggest boosters, but I'm not sure that he should be the focus of such intense blame in the immediate aftermath of this disaster. Though his words, as usual, offer nothing but shallow comfort amid trite calls for sacrifice, I'm sure that the president, whatever his limitations as a leader and the weaknesses of his politics, will continue do what he can to mobilize the federal government in support of the relief efforts and, on behalf of all Americans, to offer compassion and sympathy to those who have been affected by Katrina.

I'll have more to say about the politics of it all, but now is not the time.

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  • Here is my take on this. Bush is obviously not directly responsible for the hurricane or its aftermath. Some of the criticism he is getting about being indifferent is silly. However, what I think is the real problem is 25 years of government-bashing by Republicans and refusal to invest in infrastructure. I'm convinced that the FEMA response to something like this would have been much better 25 years ago; since then, we have had cuts in budget and just a general deterioration in the quality of government services. Plus, the constant mantra of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, has clearly reduced the ability of government to perform the functions that they need. Where is Grover Norquist now? Or the Cato Institute?

    Bush obviously isn't responsible for all of this, but he is part of the chorus that has made any kind of government activity (except for wars) anathema. I think that is a deeper theme underlying this tragedy than just whether Bush is showing enough concern.

    People have known for years that something like this was possible in New Orleans. Yet, no real planning was done, no investments made in strengthening the levees,indeed cuts in the Army Corp of Engineers budgets. And the state and local officials (Democrats and Republicans)have their own share of blame for ignoring the problems.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:34 PM  

  • Well, I think Bush has increased government when it seemed helpful to his ability to attract votes. But in terms of the things that government really has to do--disaster planning obviously--he has shown no interest in actually providing funds. He has no interest in the kinds of government activities that don't draw a lot of attention but are actually the most essential. So I think he does deserve blame. He hired a FEMA director with absolutely no qualifications for the job--this just illustrates his view of the irrelevance of government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 AM  

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