2005/09/05

Explaining the Republican response to Katrina & aftermath

The explanation I've been working with the whole time is that Bush set the tone by just not really giving a crap one way or the other about New Orleans and the people there. Casualties? People suffering and dying? I've never seen any evidence that Bush really has the capacity to care about anonymous people dying. People he doesn't know appear to be an abstraction to him. People have said that Bush just can't seem to suppress his smirk (Not being much of a TV watcher, I wouldn't know.) and his mocking of a woman he had sentenced to death fits right in with that. Soldiers who die in Iraq? His refusal to allow military caskets to be seen unloading or being honored at Dover Air Force Base on television, his refusal to attend any of the funerals fits in as well. Of course, fellow Republicans go along with this idea on the theory that for the American people to see the consequences of the Iraq War might lower their enthusiasm for continuing it. When a reporter took some pictures of military caskets and the pictures were published, many people said they suddenly realized just what the war was costing us as the casualties were no longer abstractions. The sheer reality hit home. So there's certainly something to the Republican argument, but I think it's also that Bush doesn't want to attend funerals (and bringing caskets back without him in attendance would eventually strike people as strange) because he doesn't want the strain of trying to look like he really gave a crap. Cindy Sheehan's description of his jovial manner fits in with this:

In this Lewis News Article Ms Sheehan relates that on meeting Bush, what she encountered :

was an arrogant man with eyes lacking the slightest bit of compassion, a President totally "detached from humanity" and a man who didn't even bother to remember her son's name when they were first introduced.

Ms Sheenan continues :

Instead of a kind gesture or a warm handshake, Sheehan said she immediately got a taste of Bush arrogance when he entered the room and "in a condescending tone and with a disgusting loud Texas accent," said: "Who we'all honorin' here today?"

The rest of the Bush Administration just followed suit. "The big guy doesn't think it's anything to worry about, why should we get all bent out of shape about it?" As people have pointed out, the leader of an organization (or at least the head puppet) finds his attitude reflected in the rest of that organization. Of course, I don't think Dick Cheney has any more human feeling than Bush does, so it's not necessary to bring in theories about how Cheney realy runs things behind the scenes (though the fact that Bush and Cheney felt it necessary to be interviewed together for the 9-11 Commission strongly supports that theory).

Michael Berube agrees with me that Bush is following in the footsteps of Grover Norquist, who wants to eliminate government and who apparently thinks it's a neat idea to perform government services so badly that people will conclude that "government just can't [fill in the blank] effectively". So Bush has a motivation to perform government services as badly as he possibly can. That includes, of course, rescuing people from natural disasters. Billmon also points out that New Orleans, unlike Florida in 2004 (which was handled quite efficiently) is neither in a swing state nor is there an election on the horizon, so there was simply no percentage in doing anything about it. When Bush's opinion polls began to sour, he went into action by appointing Karl Rove to start smearing opponents.

The idea that Bush and Co. were on vacation and so just couldn't be bothered to attend to unplanned trifles like New Orleans is also supported by an anecdote by Mme de Maintenon, longtime mistress and eventual wife of Louis XIV, the "Sun King" of France. In her book (I think this is the one), she relates how Louis brought some fish from a foreign country to his palace at Versailles. The king wanted those fish to live in one of the ponds. The fish died. The king was very upset because His Will was being frustrated by nature. Apparently, Louis couldn't understand why the fish were dying when He wanted them to live. . Unfortunately for the world, Bush's position is very similar to that of Louis XIV back then.
LeftCoaster points that this imperial tendency of mind in the Bush family is not limited to just George W. Interesting comparison to another leader.

Did Bush & Co. ignore New Orleans because it's a city filled with African-Americans? I'm not aware of any evidence that Bush is a racist. That doesn't mean he's not, but it's certainly not something he's known for. Orcinus comments that there are certainly a lot of racists coming out of the woodwork and Bush's father was certainly not hesitant to use race as a weapon when he was opposed to Michael Dukakis for the Presidency. There are certainly those who feel that deliberate genocide is the plan here and it's economicaly motivated. Also, comments like this about doctors not being allowed to tend the sick, FEMA's refusal to let Chicago assist, a whole list of foreigners ready, willing and able to assist and the fact that they're not being allowed to, a Navy ship was (As of the 4th) STILL anchored off the coast of New Orleans and still had not been given orders to go in and assist and FEMA's refusal to let a volunteer firefighter team assist, all makes one wonder. I would sincerely like to believe that the Bush Administration is not deliberately killing off residents of New Orleans, but I don't know...

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