Can people stop the blame game at least until we have, say, a body count, or at least a sense of how long it will be before they can pump the water out of New Orleans?
I'm as leftie-bolshie as the next Blue State voter, but I felt positively sick when I read Molly Ivins's column this morning--because even though "playing the blame game is tacky," according to her, aspects of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were Bush's fault:
One of the main reasons New Orleans is so vulnerable to hurricanes is the gradual disappearance of the wetlands on the Gulf Coast that once stood as a natural buffer between the city and storms coming in from the water. The disappearance of those wetlands does not have the name of a political party or a particular administration attached to it. No one wants to play, "The Democrats did it," or, "It's all Reagan's fault." Many environmentalists will tell you more than a century's interference with the natural flow of the Mississippi is the root cause of the problem, cutting off the movement of alluvial soil to the river's delta.
But in addition to long-range consequences of long-term policies like letting the Corps of Engineers try to build a better river than God, there are real short-term consequences, as well. It is a fact that the Clinton administration set some tough policies on wetlands, and it is a fact that the Bush administration repealed those policies--ordering federal agencies to stop protecting as many as 20 million acres of wetlands.
Last year, four environmental groups cooperated on a joint report showing the Bush administration's policies had allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands.
Does this mean we should blame President Bush for the fact that New Orleans is underwater? No, but it means we can blame Bush when a Category 3 or Category 2 hurricane puts New Orleans under. At this point, it is a matter of making a bad situation worse, of failing to observe the First Rule of Holes (when you're in one, stop digging).
Had a storm the size of Katrina just had the grace to hold off for a while, it's quite likely no one would even remember what the Bush administration did two months ago. The national press corps has the attention span of a gnat, and trying to get anyone in Washington to remember longer than a year ago is like asking them what happened in Iznik, Turkey, in A.D. 325.
Just plain political bad luck that, in June, Bush took his little ax and chopped $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."
Notice all the rhetorical tricks? "Is it right to blame Bush? No, it's not. Now let me point out another of his errors."
You know, I can't stand the guy--I mean, I really, honestly loathe Bush and 98 percent of what he's done as President--but I really don't want to hear a lot of partisan bickering when people are missing, or homeless, or mourning, or dead, or dying.
When the lives that can be saved are saved, there will still be an unimaginable job of cleaning up to do. When the cleaning up is over, it will be time to rebuild these communities and resettle the people whose lives have just been ripped apart.
Maybe when all that is taken care of, it will be time to start blaming people for what went wrong. But now is not the time.