Progressive Programmer

Progressive Politics or idle geek banter. What's on my mind when I'm irked, intrigued, bored or up too late.

Location: Michigan, United States


Newsweek - 'How Bush Blew It'

Evan Thomas, writing for Newsweek, has a lengthy article now available via MSNBC that goes into the story behind Bush, Blanco, Nagin, and what the hell took so long to get people help after Katrina moved through.

It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States
The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

Well, no wonder Bush never changes course. No wonder he doesn't have a clue as to what's going on. Not only will he not read the papers, he won't stand for anyone delivering him bad news. Even senior aides don't like to have to do it.

The story chronicles the timeline.

Nagin gets his wits scared out of him by a weather forecast on Saturday, and orders a city-wide evacuation.

By Monday, they begin to think that Katrina has somehow spared them the worst, until they realize the levees have given way and that Lake Pontchartrain is rolling in. The first FEMA rep seen that day tries to contact Washington, and is reduced to repeating, "You don't understand" into one of the few working phones.

8pm Monday has Governor Blanco talking to Bush:
At about 8 p.m., she spoke to Bush. "Mr. President," she said, "we need your help. We need everything you've got."

8pm on Monday. But, of course, Bush had important things to tend to:
There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed.

And there you have it. When it came down to realizing the gravity of the situation. When he was told by the Governor herself that, "We need everything you've got". When it came to making a choice or giving an order that could hurry the cogs in the giant federal machine to begin preventing needless deaths, George W. Bush, super-president to many conservatives, savior of the judiciary, liberator of Iraq, rubble-stander in chief after 9/11, when it came time to save people on the Gulf Coast by doing something only he had the authority to do... he went to bed.

This delay, and all of the delays that followed it, would prove costly. Indeed to some, fatal.

This might have been fine had Bush's fondness of cronyism not led him to populate the top ranks of FEMA with inexperienced campaign workers and slow-witted Horse Association Lawyers.
Once a kind of petty-cash drawer for congressmen to quickly hand out aid after floods and storms, FEMA had improved in the 1990s in the Clinton administration. But it became a victim of the Iron Law of Unintended Consequences. After 9/11 raised the profile of disaster response, FEMA was folded into the sprawling Department of Homeland Security and effectively weakened. FEMA's boss, Bush's close friend Joe Allbaugh, quit when he lost his cabinet seat. (Now a consultant, Allbaugh was down on the Gulf Coast last week looking for contracts for his private clients.) Allbaugh replaced himself with his college buddy Mike Brown, whose last private-sector job (omitted from his official resume) had been supervising horse-show judges for the International Arabian Horse Association. After praising Brown ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of job"), Bush last week removed him from honchoing the Katrina relief operation. He was replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen. The Coast Guard was one agency that performed well, rescuing thousands. (emphasis mine)

So one Bush crony quit when his position was no longer cabinet-level. As he quit, crony #1 gives his job to crony #2, who doesn't know jack about running an emergency, fluffs his resume, and omits legitimate portions of his resume because they are hopelessly underwhelming. Then crony #1 swoops back in from lobbying and contracts in Iraq to try and get some of the pork that is going to start flying all around the Gulf Coast.

Isn't that special. I'm sure they all consider themselves schmuckountable for every bit of it, but maybe, juuuuuust maybe, there is a combination of Republican and Democratic lawmakers with enough of a spine to stand up and do something about it. Because when cronyism kills, you have to start pointing fingers at the guy who's guilty of the cronyism.

I'm not liberal, I'm just paying attention


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