Katrinagate: this one has legs
As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s
Maybe the administration with its legions of spin-doctors and patch things up, but it won't be easy. Even conservatives like David Brooks are irritated:
He and others are calling the debacle the "anti 9-11": "The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled," he wrote on Sunday. "Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield."
But (predictably) it was Krugman today that had it dead on:
What caused that paralysis? President Bush certainly failed his test. After 9/11, all the country really needed from him was a speech. This time it needed action - and he didn't deliver.
But the federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution. Why should we be surprised that when we needed a government solution, it wasn't forthcoming?
It wasn't primarily incompetence or stupidity, though there was plenty of that to go around. It was ideology, the idea that self-reliance, compassion and charity can solve our problems. At bottom it was romanticism--our anti-instututional bias and sentimentalism--that got us in this fix, our nostalgia for traditional societies were people are self-reliant, neighbors are neighborly and people take care of their own, the Walt Disney Dick-and-Jane village, Pleasantville where all is well, and will be well.
It isn't Bush, or his administration, or the state or local officials, or anyone personally: it is that ideology and, whatever impact this has on the careers of politicians one prays that Americans will finally get it, realize that government, and institutions generally, not grassroots efforts, personal concern or charity, are the solution, not the problem.