What Katrina Tells Us About Mr. Bush's Philosophy of Government

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Mr. Steinhorn teaches politics and media at American University, and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, to be published by St. Martin's Press in January 2006. He is a member of the board of directors of HNN.

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Years from now, historians will likely see the Bush administration’s initially callous and indifferent response to hurricane Katrina as a parable for the type of conservatism this president and his party currently represent.

Bush conservatism is built on a fundamental cultural narrative that has reemerged since the Reagan Eighties – that success is a sign of virtue, and anything less, particularly poverty, can be explained only through a character flaw.

From the Roosevelt years through the Seventies, we defined the American Dream as a good job, a piece of the rock, and the ability to take care of one’s family. Those who lived paycheck to paycheck earned our respect, because hard work and determination were deemed virtuous. These were the people who built America.

We even understood poverty as a condition brought about by circumstance, often historical circumstance far beyond the control of the poor, and we granted those who struggled to overcome it a semblance of nobility. Sure, there were some who chose to fail, and they never gained our sympathy, but most aspired for something better and as a society we acknowledged it.

Today, however, the conservative movement has redefined success and worth in America. Because some of us succeed, conservatives say, there must be something flawed in those who don’t. The American Dream has been redefined as striking it rich, and falling short just isn’t good enough.

It’s a worldview coded into the Bush and Reagan tax cuts, which showered money on the super wealthy under the assumption that these are the real people who know how to build America. Those with money, in other words, contribute more to our nation’s health than those who merely work. They have wisdom and virtue.

And because those who aren’t successful must be responsible for their lack of success, it’s no business of government to be there for them. Thus the president seeks to privatize Social Security and cut other benefits – he calls it an “ownership society,” but in real life that translates to an “on your own society.” If you don’t properly prepare for your future, you have only yourself to blame – this is America, after all, where anyone can succeed.

In the America defined by Bush conservatism, there is no social contract that recognizes our common humanity and the link between success and the society that makes it possible – a social contract that understands hard knocks not as a character flaw but simply as part of life.

Indeed it’s no surprise that the president would prefer to transfer society’s obligations to the faith-based community, because these are institutions built on the notion of forgiving those who are weak and those who sin. If those who fail do so because of a character flaw, then we should send them to those best equipped to redeem them. The government, according to Bush conservatism, should have no part of it.

It’s sad yet fascinating how conservative pundits seized on the small number of looters during Katrina’s aftermath, turning it into the main storyline of the hurricane, as if it provided confirmation for a worldview that asks “What’s wrong with these people” and “Why didn’t they save themselves” and “Why didn’t they evacuate?”

Unstated but understood among these conservatives is the view that Katrina’s victims, many of them at least, are responsible for their misery. Others got out, so why didn’t they? Doesn’t it reveal the same character flaw that makes them poor?

Thus it’s not government’s duty to help them, and thus the initial impassiveness and unresponsiveness of this conservative administration. Only when politics intervened did the president realize the perils of his indifference.

Perhaps the president has an excuse. After all, his own life story follows this conservative narrative. He was a drinker, an irresponsible husband, and he turned his own life around through faith and redemption. If he could overcome his character flaw, why not everyone else?

What he forgets is that he had a safety net of wealth to protect him. Most of us don’t. And what he assumes is that the poor and near poor suffer from character flaws. Most of them don’t, and in fact most of them work hard for what they have.

Whether Katrina will serve as a cultural turning point is yet to be seen. But the hurricane that hit America is only partly due to nature. It’s also a storm created by a conservative ideology that, consciously or not, leads to contempt and indifference toward those not seen as society’s winners.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

People should not live in a below sea level swamped "protected" by an unsustainable series of "levees" during a time when the severity and frequency of extreme weather events is rising (for whatever reason). If they nonetheless choose to be so foolish, it is incumbent on them and their governing authorities to have a credible set of plans for evacuation. Government failed, and the top government, that "runs" the F E D E R A L emergency management admin., had the supreme responsibility and failed the most egregiously and unpardonably. Bush will now "try" his ass off, but it only matters if the degree of "trying" is important". In the sense that he did not try at all until it was too late (appointing a horse show salesman with no experience to run the agency,etc.), I guess you could say trying was important in that ON-OFF binary sense. And he has already scored a Zero for eternity.

Nonetheless, his hypocritical backers here who would walk straight into hell rather than ever use common sense if means conceding an ounce of mistakeness, will quite likely be here 2 years from now, when HNN has a predictably inane article along the lines of "Katrina Recovery: Compasionate Conservativism Works After All", telling us in no uncertain terms that precisely zero percent of the credit for the recovery can be attributed to state, local, and volunteer efforts. Just the way Airhead Ronald Raygun personally liberated Auschwitz and opened the Brandenburg Gate all on his own, and Iran Contra never happened and the multi-trillion dollar debt he ran up was all Congress's fault.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

According to today's news, the U.S. President has discovered that he is human, that it is human to err, that he erred, and that he will not immediately vanish in a puff of smoke to reemerge as mere owner of the Rangers if he takes responsibility for erring. Let us be thankful for small miracles, but not be too eager for the much larger miracle of such common sense and basic honesty actually percolating down to the cheerleaders.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Not to acknowledge your asinine assumption that applying common sense in evaulating this scandalous disaster = being a "Bush Basher", but is there a Mississippi delta in Florida with hundreds of thousands living below sea level protected by levees that were well known to not be viable against extreme weather ? You are comparing Cajun apples to Florida oranges, Mr. Heisler. Not valid and anyway your great hero has already shot down your feeble attempts to excuse him, by admitting he screwed up.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

It is neither G.W. Bush's "philosophy" nor his "ideology" nor his "worldview" which have produced headlines with "Shame" in them around the world in the past week and half. The reason for the headlines lies much more with execution than with intent, with failure to avert preventable disaster far more than the "ideological indifference" of someone for whom the label "conservative" is as obsolete as it is feebly unoriginal.

The issue that towers above all others, notwithstanding the laundry list of other topics appearing on HNN over the past few days, is the glaring incompetency with which the most powerful man in the world repeatedly messes up in discharging his fundamental public responsibilities.

Unfortunately, that is not an issue towards which the author, and the others like him who run this website are inclined. What matters most to them are "cultural turning points" and a host of other pre-fab journalistic rotes, rather than, for example, an understanding of politics informed by a clearheaded and thorough historical perspective, or even obvious contemporary facts.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Have you ever looked at a map of Louisiana and seen how many channels the Mississippi naturally uses to flow the sea ? It was inevitable that levees trying confine that flow to a small fraction of its natural area would not withstand every kind of storm, and that cities below water level would flood when the levees burst. A no brainer. National Geographic etc. had stories about this decades ago. The Rovian pretense that it was all a random act of God may still fly with the ignorant masses who largely voted for his client. Maybe Osama bin Hussein made Katrina do it ? No doubt millions of couch potatoes would fall for it.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

There should have been a FEDERAL plan for what do if the levees burst, regardless if Billy Carter drank Billy Beer on one in 1977 or not, and regardless if the mayor and governor and most inhabitants of the state are raging imbeciles or not. There obviously was no decent plan and incompetents were put in charge of trying to learn how to make one on the fly. The ridiculous attempts to excuse the inexcusable on this propaganda barrage website are getting tiresome.

Arnold Shcherban - 9/18/2005

Hurray, the US casualties are temporarily down in Iraq and the federal help to the victims of Katrina are eventually arriving!
You see, Democrats and other leftists,
has never believed that this,
along with Roberts' appointement, happen... sooner or later.
Apparently they thought and told us so
that Bush administration will never
spend a single federal dollar and send a single man to help Katrina victims and in reconstruction efforts?! Apparently the Democrats in Washington were blocking sending better armor protection to American troops in Iraq, apparently Leftists did not speak about tremendous civil sufferings over the American occupation of Iraq, which has not demeanished a bit recently, apparently Democrats or any half-brained for that matter did not know
that Roberts would be appointed, even
if he upheld Nazi ideological positions, as long as remaining the member of Republican party.
(Of course, the Iraqis' already dozens of thousands of casualties are
up, but who said that American President or historian has or does care about dozen of thousands of dead Muslims..., or Indians, or Chinese,
or Russians, or French, or Germans.
Oh, I'm sorry, they actually do... when those deaths are the fault of "evil" people.
And, of course, the help arrived too late for many of New Orleans' poor, which never been cared about much by any Washington adminstration).
Isn't all of the above a clear indication of the current administration's victorious
attitude when in adversity?
Do you just enjoy being contrarian
to facts, or have a habit to become absurdist in adversity, Mr. Lederer?

John H. Lederer - 9/17/2005

Last week everyone was talking about Bush's failed presidency. Katrina debacle. Iraq. No Social Security reform. He was toast.

This coming week the argument will be over whether the rejuvenation should include school vouchers, what the terms of mortgages for new homes for the refugees should be, how expansive the role of the military in disasters should be, and what should be cut from government spending.

Guess whose agenda is being debated?

This is a President who does best in adversity.

Meanwhile, in Iraq U.S. casualties are down despite intense military operations, a constitutional election looms that Bush will "win" regardless of outcome as long as there is a vote, Al Qaeda is losing support and appears to be about to push in all its chips on a Tet offensive, and it looks like Dems have claimed "absolute moral authority" for a poor woman whom the public is starting to regard as a whacko nut job taken advantage of. Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee look like whiny blowhards, and Democrats, not Republicans, are sweating over the upcomning vote on Roberts.

The game plan has gone awry.

Clark David Richards - 9/17/2005

Opportunists closed in on New Orleans before the rain and wind exited. They were the looters of luxury goods, politicians ascribing blame,
oil company and retail gougers, news reporters describing the story and a host of others looking to claim some benefit from a catastrophe. Amidst this there were great acts of heroism, sacrifice, determination and dedication to overcoming the wrath of Katrina. Resourcefulness and apathy abounded. There were those looking for a helping hand and those looking for a handout.

The winds have subsided and the water is receding and it is difficult to determine how the victims will ultimately fare. Sadly, I believe the opportunists , the poor and those looking for a handout will fare better in the short term than the hard working group of resourceful individuals that will dig in, dig out and recover their lives. In the long term the resourceful will overcome Katrina, the apathetic will claim there lives were ruined until they depart this life.

The most magnanimous, efficient and effective group that has lent their expertise to the community and the citizenry seems to be the US military services.

There will be more rhetoric about failures than successes. Lawyers will have a field day with insurance companies. Politicians on the right and left will use the disaster to further their cause without really examining any long range effects. The government will pour billions of dollars into the area and it will help in the recovery. Billions of dollars will be siphoned off to corrupt companies, unethical individuals and incompetence. Contractors and suppliers of recovery materials will realize significant financial reward. The poor, uneducated and under educated will have an excellent opportunity to improve themselves. They won't. News agencies will have stories for years about the issues. Academics will write ad nauseum about the social, political and economic affects of Katrina. Some will get it right. Corruption and inefficiency will be reported more fully than creativity and success. New Orleans will be better than it was. Reaction to disasters in the future will be better. Reaction to disasters in the future will never be responsive enough.

The preceding comments are based on my study and experience with American history. There are thousands of stories yet to be written. These few words are oversimplified, but largely correct. Comments?

Arnold Shcherban - 9/16/2005

Historical data, Mr. Alvarado?

Let me give you some general historical data, and not just on Bush administration, but on the structure
and workings of this country's socio-economic system, the data that not a single one honest person in the world
can object to, since it is the Fact and therefore the Truth!
In this richest world country millions
of its citizens live below or at poverty level, while thousands live
much beyond the reasonable needs and wants of any human being, not totally obsessed with the accumulation of material wealth and power.
In this richest and ablest country in the world dozens of millions of school and college students possess knowledge and skills in major academic subjects like math and science much lower than their counterparts in almost all other industrialized nations (24th out of
the 27).
19th century cultural and general knowledge ignorance, and faith in religious and, consequently, socio-economic myths are epidemic in this 21st century society.
The latter circumstance systematically created and propagated by the reactionary and oligarchic(corporate) forces is, perhaps, the main reason it is so difficult to introduce any considerable socio-economic changes in this country, which will be supported by the majority of the US population.
Current administration instead of taking steps to, at least, mitigate
the corrupt influence of the mentioned
status-quo, only took steps that further worsen the already huge
socio-economic gap between rich and powerful and middle class, and truly enormous gap between the former and the poor folks (the facts confirmed
by the latest statistical data).
It is not coincidental, of course, since current admisnistration is comprised of the wealthy and powerful and primarily represents the particular interests of those smallest
part of our so-called "democratic society".

Katrina was a natural disaster with
the damage, especially to the poor folks of the regions affected, multiply exascerbated by the mentioned above realities of this country's socio-economic and its derivative - political system, including the corrupt and inept local
and state goverments.

I could continue up to the second coming, if you sir believe in one, but
have no time nor willingness to; it is supposed to be so clear to any even half-blinded and half-educated.

Robert Harbison - 9/15/2005

"If I ever live in a city like New Orleans, built below sea level"

It wasn't. The city has been sinking for more than 150 years. When it was built it was 5 Ft ABOVE sea level.

"How much better and more managable this Hurricane response would have been if folks had responded to the call's to evacuate?"

Those with the MEANS did.

"Our system since day one has operated so that the chain of command goes local, state, and federal. I guess the author feels Bush could have showed more compassion by throwing that precedent to the wind, and by tens of thousands of troopers landing from the sky, pre Hurricane, forcing at gunpoint the citizens to leave the impending storm?"

You do realize how much Hitler would have liked that scenario, right?

"My guess is next time a similar storm is coming, more like 90 percent of the people will leave, as they should, and the govt. at all level's will have a much easier time responding to the needs of the 10 percent who don't. "

You also do realize that more than EIGHTY percent of the city DID evacuate? The ones who were left behind were either too poor, or too sick to leave on their own, or too rich to give a ... damn.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/15/2005

>>>Robert's short and confusing concession speech?<<<

I fell off my saddle and laughed my ba**s off!

Having arrived at the above, no matter how tortuous or not...touche....Mon Ami....touche...as I would reconize a sly maneuver of en-passant in chess or a touch in fencing....but concede? Yeild?...Au Contrarie.

Charles Edward Heisler - 9/15/2005

Robert's short and confusing concession speech?

Robert F. Koehler - 9/15/2005

Horse Feathers

Charles Edward Heisler - 9/14/2005

Gee whiz, after all those metaphors, analogies, ranting, raving, slobbering, you still did not manage to answer the basic question concerning why all the other mayors and governor seemed to coordinate rescue and shelter with your hated Bush Administration and Louisiana (a State of legendary and continuing corruption) managed to both turn down adn beg for offered federal assistance within hours!
Guess it is simply too hard, too traditionally hard, to politically correct hard to blame a black mayor, a woman governor, a black population for anything, so long as there is a white Republican male to bash.
Robert you might win arguments in debate 101 with the name calling but here in the big leagues it takes solid argument--hit the showers!

John H. Lederer - 9/14/2005

"....come back for another, at most, 50 people..."

Those must be the fat ones.

The pesky kid " packed about 100" in his bus according to news reports.

(There were at least three other school buses stolen and used to haul victims out)

John H. Lederer - 9/14/2005

"Those buses could only be used if trained bus drivers were available to drive them..."

That would be the 18 year old who hot wired the school bus and drove it to Houston?

Steven R Alvarado - 9/14/2005

I would hope that those future historians that write about the Bush Administration will use historical data and not the assumptions that Steinhorn makes.

Jim B. Harris - 9/14/2005

I don't know if they do or not, but I would certainly hope that in the future that all teachers (in a city built below sea level with the Mississippi on one side, Lake Pontch on the other, and the Ocean behind it, and upon notice of a level 4 or level 5 hurricane) would teach kids from Kindgergarten on that they should get out of town as fast as can. By use of car's, bikes, busses, or the old fashioned walking. The consequence of stiking around just may involve personal harm and misfortune. Do not stick around and wait for the US Navy to pluck you out of the water's at the last second like a bad Irwin Allen movie.

On second thought, perhaps our liberal friends who believe in diversity of all things but thought can tell us again how these uneducated poor people can't do anything for themselves (their words) and thus should be excused for excercising personal responsibility.

Hurricane Katrina was an incredible destructive natural disaster. So is the blame game, but it is one that liberal's seem to have mastered lately. Pay no attention to the Democratic Mayor and Gov., nope, just one more excuse for whining.

Keep it up, it did real well for you in the last election.

Stephen Rifkin - 9/14/2005

That is certainly plausible. And then you and the rest of the 90% could congratulate yourselves on the somewhat more ispired morality of your lives which lead yo to make those choices, I suppose.

Stephen Rifkin - 9/14/2005

Because I'm reasonably sure that the fine people of San Francisco and Oakland, Charleston, Jacksonville and various other places are deserving of your divine scorn for the crime of hubris. Hubris for living somewhere that is periodically, some would say routinely pummeled by erstwhile natural 'disasters' anyone could easily, it seems, predict.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/14/2005

Some of what you said is a stark commentary upon our times that it had to be said at all. Your quite right that the Prez should have gotten off his sweet cakes and hustled himself into Washington D.C. on or just before the 26th, assembling his cabinet, barking orders and kicking tail when appointees and minions didn't move fast enough. The president is Commander in Chief of the armed forces and chief executive of a vast array of federal agencies, of which he needs no permission from the Congress, Governors or any Mayor to command into action. By the time I was notified by Statfor on the 28th it was already too late, though continued dalliance and thumbs high up where they don't belong only worsened a bad situation worse.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/14/2005

Mr. Heisler

Its preposterous and beyond all reason to expect local & state authorities to be solely on the ball or fully responsible for disasters of this magnitude, especially when so-called conservatives and liberals in both parties have treasonously colluded in the construction of an Abomination That Sits Where It Ought Not on the Potomac, that has sucked the wealth, resources, liberties, rights, brains and life blood-out of the country & her peoples into their grimy, greasy, gofer gut paws, and justified their cons & corruptions with lies, falsehoods and promises never intended to be delivered. I think the masses can be given some slack in expecting the almighty federal authority to be there when they need them, let alone the justifiable chagrin and rage when that federal Abomination proves again zilch, never and not.

Considering also the massive cuts in programs & revenue sharing at the local & state level so as to feed half-assed hegemony & hapless wars around the globe, let alone the absence of vital 'first responders' so absolutely critical in the aftermaths very first seconds & minutes, not hours or days, its nothing less than astounding what local & state authorities principally on their own have accomplished in those immediate seconds, minutes, hours & days, no matter how short or feeble others unfairly judge it. There are a lot of hero's in Louisiana, Mississippi & Alabama, there are none in the Presidency, Congress or D.C.

Maia Cowan - 9/14/2005

What's truly fascinating is that the people who claim greater worth on the basis of greater wealth have been lying their heads off to justify abandoning the poor. Maybe it's just me, but telling lies is *not* evidence of moral superiority.

For example, all the rightwing talkers have claimed that "2,000 buses sat idle" that could have been used to evacuate people without their own transportation, and of course they've been blaming Mayor Nagin for it. The facts are: the New Orleans public schools and city bus system between them have fewer than 700 buses. Those buses could only be used if trained bus drivers were available to drive them, and many of the drivers evacuated their families instead of staying in the city (you don't want untrained people driving buses -- they'll either wreck the transmission or crash the bus). As many buses as there were drivers to drive them *were* used to evacuate people to the Superdome (why the Superdome and not someplace farther from the storm? the freeways were clogged, so it would take so long for each bus to go to another city and come back for another, at most, 50 people), until the storm hit and conditions made it impossible to continue. (Links to sources here: http://mediamatters.org/items/200509120005)

Robert F. Koehler - 9/14/2005

Mr. Heisler

"Rants?" Taking a cue from George I'll be a stand up guy too and accept, bear & take the charge fair & square, like a real man.

As for explaining "trying" I have already done that sufficiently in my posts to make what I mean about "trying" abundantly clear.

The only thing I would add, change or retract is where I said George would "never admit" that the 'buck stops' with him, all though he was about 2 weeks late on taking responsiblity for that too its better late than never. At the very minimum it shuts down all the finger pointing and allows the country to get on with the aid, relief and reconstruction efforts.

Stephen Rifkin - 9/14/2005

I find it darkly amusing that the people who either wag their fingers at the people who 'should have known' or simply declare that the Federal government has no inherent responsibility because again, 'they should have known' seem to miss entirely the notion that many major population centers from suffer random disasters. Perhaps we should abandon San Franciso, Los Angeles, Tulsa, St. Louis, Savannah, Jacksonville? These are all locations that experience earthquakes, mudslides, fires, floods and hurricanes. And cynically, these are the same people who declare that nuclear power plants like Diablo canyon or waste sites like Yucca Flats 'pose no known significant risk' and we should be happy to accept whatever remotely possible risks they present.

Charles Edward Heisler - 9/14/2005

Why Chris, am I to assume that New Orleans was filled to the brim with prosperous people prior to 2001? Were there no poor in the Big Easy until the Bush years?
I'm still interested to have one of you Bush Bashers tell me how the Governors and Mayors in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi managed to evacuate and shelter their poor with such efficiency and the Govenor and Mayor of New Orleans did not. Since all of these "other" folks seemed to utilize the early Bush declared state of emergency and somehow Louisiana did not.
Compare and contrast the difference for me, if you will.
Transportation was available to all the poor in New Orleans.
When you show that there are unique characteristics/conditions in New Orleans that were specifically exacerbated by the Bush White House, I might accept your argument that Bush and his policies are primarily responsible for the mess in the Big Easy.

christopher j green - 9/14/2005

Regarding those who did not evacuate, see my post upthread. Suffice it to say that many of them can not. You attempt to blame the "liberal establishment" for having a society of people reliant on Government for support. Well, this may come as news to you but, we don't have a liberal government at the moment and the reality is that, according to several government studies recently released, the number of people in poverty in this country has risen by 4.1 MILLION people since 2001. Not to mention the MILLIONS of jobs that have disappeared overseas because our current administration gave a tax break for offshore tax shelters and corporate exodus. How is it that these people are supposed to be able to ween themselves from the necessity of government when their lot in life keeps getting worse and worse under, arguably, the most conservative administration in the last 20 years? Liberal establishment my ass! Oh, but it's all Clinton's fault right? He only balanced the budget, put more people to work in good paying jobs (even after the dot com bust), and didn't squander our country's resources by giving them away to corporate interests. Bush used to call himself a compassionate conservative? For all the invective I've seen from your side of the aisle, I have to ask...Where is the compassion?

christopher j green - 9/14/2005

I think you completely missed the point of the article. You say that the people of New Orleans should have evacuated. What you don't acknowledge is the fact that, prior to Katrina, New Orleans had one of the lowest mean income scores in the nation. More than 30% of the city's inhabitants lived below the poverty line (most of them working). New Orleans had NO major industry. Most people either worked in the few oil industry jobs or in the service industry. For instance, in Ward 9 (an area devastated by Katrina and mostly underwater thereafter), the average income was between $8,000 and $10,000/year. These people lived hand to mouth and Katrina hit at the worst possible time: the end of the month. These people do NOT have many of the luxuries that most of us take for granted. They don't have credit cards and, in many cases, cars. The other mitigating factor is that many of these people have (as a result of their families' economic situations) no family outside of New Orleans and have, in some cases, never been outside the city. Even if they had had the resources to leave, where were they supposed to go? I would submit to you that many of the individuals that stayed to suffer Katrina's wrath would have left if they had had the means to do so.

You also attempt to address the chain of command and how it applies to this tragedy. You fail to mention, however, that Governor Blanco sent a letter to President Bush on August 27th (more than 36 hours prior to Katrina making landfall) stating, and I quote, "I have determined that this incident will be of such severity and magnitude that effective response will be beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance will be necessary." The following day (the day prior to the storm making landfall, the President declared a state of emergency and called Katrina, "A matter of national significance". Under the National Response Plan drawn up by the Department of Homeland Security last year, all coordination for preperation and relief after the event were now officially the onus of the Federal government and, specifically, FEMA. What was needed was NOT troops to force people to leave their homes (which would have been illegal). What was needed was a LEADER! Any President worth a shit would have had his entire senior staff back in Washington preparing for the impending relief efforts on Friday, August 26th when it was first known when, where, and at what strength Katrina was going to land.

I'm not here to attempt to sell the idea that the local officials are not without culpability here. They ALL made mistakes and should ALL be held accountable be they Democrat, Republican, a Mayor, a Governor, a Police Chief, or the President of the United States. I felt the need to attempt to present this tragedy to you in a light that may break through some of your preconcieved notions about many of your fellow Americans, namely the poor and indigent. I hope that I have given you some things to think about.

Charles Edward Heisler - 9/13/2005

Maybe the poster, between rants, will tell us what a "try" by the President would have done to relieve the suffering in New Orleans?
Let me take another tack in the blame game, since we are determined to not blame a mayor who did not act, a governor, who did not act, let me lay some blame on the liberal establishment that has managed, for years to both create and perpetuate an entire population of helpless people who, when confronted with any problem that requires personal initiative, cannot act without governmental assistance.
I can say this by merely comparing the reaction of the folks in Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama who managed to either stay and die or vacate and survive without the massive expectation that help had to arrive within hours of the end of the storm.

John H. Lederer - 9/13/2005

If one changes the tax system so that the rich pay a higher proportion of taxes, and the poor a lesser portion, one is "showering money on the super wealthy".

The trick of course is to say it enough times so it becomes believable. It just takes practice.

Professors might want to give students who have difficulty a useful tip: "Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Robert F. Koehler - 9/13/2005

On 28 August 2005, just before Katrina slammed into the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama I received my first red alert from Stratfor.com concerning the potential destructiveness and "human catastrophe" that storm could wreck upon New Orleans, the region and country as a whole.

Now I am just a nobody nothing of a tax slave who got a 'heads up' on what was about to body-slam the US of A. With the federal governments massive trillions of dollars in resources and expansive extra-constitutional powers, that authority should have been organizing and mobilizing its vast assets before Katrina got anywhere near our coasts, especially in light of the fact that much of the regions 'first responders' are in Iraq.

Technically, it was already too late for Bush to "try" when I received notification. The country is now in the morbid process of recognizing that their president was way late in "trying," and Bush himself probably realizes he missed the boat big time on this one and was way, way late in "trying" too, though of course he will never admit it.

"Hypocritical backers" will never grasp these simple technicalities. As partisans they are too whacked between the ears for normal thinking, because for partisans (of all persuasions) a mind is a terrible thing and its use means great pain. So yes, 2 years out we will endure their "inane" fantasizing and myth making of events that didn't, couldn't and never did happen, but they will be no more relevant then as they are today on those past issues. Hindsight sees to that.

Phillip Fletcher Stockwell - 9/13/2005

People who would call the American president "the most powerful man in the world" haven't done their homework.

(Since the elections of 2000 and 2004 were rigged we have no legitimate president of the USA. But that has been the case for decades as outlined below.)

Harry Truman signed the National Security Act in 1947 and formed the CIA which was an alliance of former Nazi intelligence officers and agents of the richest bankers and industrialists who had been financing fascism since the 1920s to prevent the growth of populism and democracy which eats into corporate profits and elite control of society.

Allen Dulles schemed to make the small intelligence organization into the de facto secret government of the USA which happened by the mid-1950s.

JFK attempted to restore what was left of the American republic and was killed.

Presidents ever since have been hand-picked by the Council on Foreign Relations' CIA-steered media and rigged elections ever since to maintain 'stability' and 'predictability.'

The president is no more than a corporate spokes-model for USA, Inc. and does what he is told by a small circle of handlers who represent the CFR and the military industrial media complex of war-profiteers.

Much can be learned about the military coup that eliminated the US Constitution and Bill of Rights by reading the leaked and declassified Army and CIA documents on guerilla warfare and psychological operations ostensibly for use in other countries such as Nicaragua but really the same police-state tactics of suppression of dissent and manipulation of public opinion used against the American people to enable the repeated attacking other countries to loot their resources.

Use a search engine to read up on:
Prescott Bush
Averell Harriman
Brown Brothers Harriman
Council on Foreign Relations
Reinhard Gehlen organization
Operation Paperclip
Operation Mockingbird
L. Fletcher Prouty
Jim Garrison
...to name just a few.

Excellent online overviews of 20th century American history:

(The Rise of American Fascism, by Geoff Price)

(Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, by Antony C. Sutton)

(National Security Archive documents on CIA and Nazi war criminal alliance)

(New Hampshire Gazette: Bush-Nazi Dealings Continue Until 1951)

(The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the US and the World, by L. Fletcher Prouty, Col. US Air Force, retired)

(A Report on CIA Infiltration and Manipulation of the Mass Media, by Ashley Overbeck)

(The Origins of the Overclass, by Steve Kangas)

I have lots more but will stop here.

Read everything you can by Catherine Austin Fitts and Michael Ruppert.

You will find out just how corrupt the US government is.


Robert F. Koehler - 9/13/2005

Well of course the media has a dog in this fight since its as saturated with ideologues and partisans as government and society. Disinformation, misinformation, exaggeration and outright lying will be the hallmarks of the media over this tragic event, as the primary & dominating interest is CYOA and blame it all on the other guy. Truth, in Pontius Pilate words; "what's truth?" will get deliberately blurred, lost, misplaced & meanly used by everyone with an ax to grind and a hatchet to bury.

Bush's problem is perception and perception is politics. Polls indicate that a large majority of American's perceive that this President did nothing, or at the very least could have done a hell of a lot more that what he did. At a much deeper level it really doesn't matter or, have nothing to do with with whether America was prepared for this disaster or, that this disaster was so great that human efforts could do nothing but fail in the prospect. What mattered was trying (one word that needs to be emphasized, screamed, and yelled from every mountain top), was actually doing something, no matter how puny or hopeless the effort. Phone calls to a mayor or governor, or saying local and state law prevented the federal authority from taking any action at all won't fly as excuses. This isn't 1789 America, not unless we have 200 year old Rip VanWinkels waking up in the land.

John H. Lederer - 9/13/2005

Of course one of the problems is that Katrina tells us nothing. The media tell us. And the media seems to have a dog in this fight.

Here is an NPR story-- a doctor's front line report-- "excerpted":

So what was excerpted? The lines that told us he was part of the FEMA effort and that the problem was not forseeable:

"for those of you who dont know i am a member of the texas-4 disaster medical assistence team (DMAT). we are a part of FEMA..."


"watching the new reports trickle back to us has been frustrating and heart breaking. there is NOTHING anyone could have done to prepare for this. it was TOO huge, even now its so big its almost impossible to comprehend. the leaders needed to see first hand the damage but did not because their safety could not be guaranteed. its a war zone in new orleans. it is covered in raw sewage with no infrastructure. every engineer i have spoken with believes that most of the city will have to be plowed into fields and that rebuilding what is left will take decades. it will NEVER be the same. never. ever."

An interesting choice of omissions. Perhaps thing like this are what lead the author to say how "callous and indifferent" the Bush adminsitration while others disagree.

Most interesting to me has been the omission of what I regarded as startling and significant news: The statements by the Red Cross and Salvation Army they were ready and able to provide food and water to the people at the SuperDome and Convention Center from very early on, but were prohibited from doing so by state officials lest they encourage people to stay there.

So sure..Bush was callous and indifferent. Look at the lack of medical care, look at the those poor people at the Superdome and Convention Center, left without food and water by an incompetent federal government.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/13/2005

These aren't normal times Mr. Lederer, if they were I would agree with your statement. America is at war externally and internally and the geo-political system and its architecture during the past 60 years is in flux and change. Power relationships and alliances are changing all over the world, with many nations & peoples waking up and finding themselves sleeping with bed-fellows that was unthinkable only a few years ago or even days.

Nor is this situation something new. In 1990 or 91 as I recall, an anonymous state department official remarked about the fall of the Soviet Union: "There but by the Grace of God go we." There has been a lot of intelligent discussion and heated controversy concerning the end of the Cold War International System & what will replace it within the US foreign policy establishment, and some of it was & is pure lunacy and madness.

Unfortunately, lunacy and madness came to rein primarily in the office of the chief executive, some of its agencies and partly within an irrelevant Congress of the US. Its reign is coming to an end because of the enormity of its failure, that's awesomely stunning in its breath & scope far beyond what anyone had predicted it would. By no measure are these normal times and there are a host of "games" afoot & running amuck within the Hall of Mirrors of that Versailles on the Potomac.

How it ends for Bush I can't say, but these are interesting times, Mr Lederer, interesting times in which almost anything can happen & come to pass.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/13/2005

A vast political entity known as Homeland Defense. Its an understatement to say that it has failed its first test.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/13/2005


John H. Lederer - 9/12/2005

He is a lame duck. Ergo, he is to blame for almost all. It will be all the day he leaves the White house.

That unfortunately is the game that gets played.

Charles Edward Heisler - 9/12/2005

Any argument following a incorrect premise is simply fallacious.
The claim that Bush was indifferent and callous at the beginning of the Katrina disaster is incorrect.
Bush recognized the danger of the oncoming storm and handed the Governor and Mayor the means to mitigate much of the suffering in New Orleans long before the storm hit. If they failed to utilize the Federal assistance then they are the callous and indifferent beings in this tragedy.
But the good professor knows that and is merely, as professors do, making some political hay from the poor gleanings of hysterical media reporting and common incorrect perception that followed this overwrought natural disaster.
We do appreciate the professor telling all of us what conservatives believe about success and the lack thereof, even tho we laugh at the simple mindedness of his analysis.
So much for academic patience and research, studied conclusions!
Oh well, I guess some must say something--even if something so very wrong.

Robert F. Koehler - 9/12/2005

After your comments at the top of the page, I don't know how anyone can add anything further to this topic without being superfluous on the one hand, or sounding like an apologist or an ogre trying to deflect blame from where it belongs unto inanimate objects or victims on the other. The substantive issue here is not that the levies were in bad shape or, that funding was massively cut during this administration or, shoddy work was performed because of lack of funds or all the other idiocies flying around. If its going to come down to blame than of course everyone from the local to the federal can come in for there fair share of the hangman's noose.

But tellingly, while it was obvious to millions of American's that possibly thousands of Americans were suffering and drowning in the coastal regions of Louisiana, Alabama & Mississippi, the Bushite's god dawdled, grieving & fretting over a woman camped out in a ditch or, stroking strings on a guitar while his countrymen were dying in a monster storm. Bushite's are desperate to obliterate this image Americans have in their heads and it is devastating & exasperating all that came before. Its reported that a Pew poll:

>>>The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that 67 percent of Americans believe that the president could have done more to speed relief efforts to those devastated by Katrina while only 28 percent of Americans believe he did all he possibly could.<<<


I share your opinions concerning the American electorate, but this stuff is the nitrous-oxide that fuels populist feelings and movements, which the vile vermin habitating in that Versailles on the Potomac live in fear & dread of. More, not less pundits & politicians are criticizing the President over his initial lack of action or concern and these aren't all democrats. The comments Bushite's have published on this thread are digging their guys grave rather than shielding him from the darts and arrows of enraged citizens. It can only enrage the enraged more, not less.

I know you think I'm a little batty over this elitist thing, but the boys and girls on top are a shrewd bunch. I don't doubt they can stage manage anyone into the White House and make their fellow citizens think it was their doing. After all, without laying everything on the people how else can you explain Bush? What the topcats can't guarantee is that the anointed will follow the game plan or, not turn out to be an incompetent of the first magnitude. On both scores George has seriously disappointed the wrong people, with even powerful members in his own party questioning and beginning to distance themselves from him. Even gods need scapegoats and methinks a little of that thinking has more to do with George's reelection than anything else.

John H. Lederer - 9/12/2005

Well, the levee sections that failed were updated ones.

The one thing that could not have been feasibly done was "avert" by flood control work a category 4/5 during the Bush administration. That work, to be completed now would have to have been started in prior administrations.

It was actually started by Lyndon Johnson after the '65 hurricane, but when the planning was done and actual contruction was started in 1977 during the Carter administration it was halted by an environmental suit.

Frankly, I think this issue has been largely defined by demagoguery rather than facts.

It is also true that New orleans would flood if the levees failed. However, the expected failure was by topping and not by breach (different emergency response). There are conflicting reports but a strong possibility is that the principal breach (17 st) may have been caused by a loaded grain barge that broke its moorings and rammed the wall. It would be nice if that were the case, becuase if not, someone has to explain why the failure was in a new updated section, built in the last 2 years, rather than in the older, supposedly less safe, sections.

Jim B. Harris - 9/12/2005

If I ever live in a city like New Orleans, built below sea level, with the Mississippi on one side, the ocean behind me, and Lake Pontch on the other side, that if I get several days notice that a level 5 Hurricane is coming at me, then I best get out of town promptly.

How much better and more managable this Hurricane response would have been if folks had responded to the call's to evacuate?

Our system since day one has operated so that the chain of command goes local, state, and federal. I guess the author feels Bush could have showed more compassion by throwing that precedent to the wind, and by tens of thousands of troopers landing from the sky, pre Hurricane, forcing at gunpoint the citizens to leave the impending storm?

My guess is next time a similar storm is coming, more like 90 percent of the people will leave, as they should, and the govt. at all level's will have a much easier time responding to the needs of the 10 percent who don't.

John H. Lederer - 9/12/2005

"with failure to avert preventable disaster"


Robert F. Koehler - 9/12/2005


After carefully reading your post I am glad you did, since I doubt that any here (me included) could have said it better.