Friday, September 16, 2005
The Cans Vs The Can'ts
Victor David Hanson pegs it in this column on the media reporting on Katrina:
Yes, Hurricane Katrina revealed swearing, crying and stupefied public officials at all levels. Their initial paralysis may have endangered some lives.The press, let's face it, turned out to be incompetent. They still haven't figured out that there is a genuine constitutional problem with the Feds taking over a state without consent from its governor.
But the media's coverage turned out to be almost as disturbing as the natural calamity and initial bureaucratic ineptness — in both the falsehood it spread and the truth it ignored. Political commentators proved more disturbing, seeking to turn death to partisan advantage.
They weren't even good at reporting what happened, as Lou Dolinari explains in this column regarding the rescue effort:
Largely invisible to the media's radar, a broad-based rescue effort by federal, state and local first responders pulled 25,000 to 50,000 people from harm's way in floodwaters in the city. Ironically, FEMA's role, for good or ill, was essentially non-existent, as was the Governor's and the Mayor's. An ad-hoc distributed network responded on its own. Big Government didn't work. Odds and ends of little government did.The press hasn't yet figured out that the most pressing issue for emergency planners is how to prevent a Katrina-scale communications network breakdown. Carl at No Oil For Pacifists includes excellent links in this post.
Neither FEMA's bureacracy nor the grandstanding and lack of preparation of the local officials in NO and LA are coming off well, but the competence and motivation of individuals and the lowest level of social and political organizations are looking great. It's a question now of how we can meld this together to deal with other such disasters efficiently. Let's put it this way - the USA is having an awfully Reaganesque moment.
The really significant speech yesterday was Blanco's, in which she announced that the buck stopped with her and that she took responsibility. (DU was devastated.) But Bush's speech was pretty good, and he does appear to be trying to move forward with as little political wrangling as possible. I remain very worried about the idea that Congress will give more power to the President to move the regular military into states over a local governor's authority.
The political outcome of Katrina is going to be the absolute reverse of what the media predicted. The spectacle of the Roberts hearings reiterated the Democratic adherence to the rhetoric of the 60's, and the media has lured them into this flailing demonstration of disoriented incompetence. The majority of Americans really reject racial rhetoric and factionalism (even many of those in the Astrodome). The media seems confounded that the victims of Katrina don't have the same perspective as they do.
But if you were a victim of Katrina, would Bush's speech or the Democratic response speak more directly to you? Is the new official Democratic position that Republicans are wily, intelligent strategic thinkers who are dangerous because they are smart but have no hearts? And in contrast, of course, the intellectually outclassed but extremely compassionate Democrats care about the "little people".
Is the real meme emerging among the Democratic strategists at the national level the one in the letter that Ann Althouse received?
The skills John Roberts displays are like those of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or House Republican Leader Tom DeLay. Both of those men have sharp political minds -- they are among the smartest in Washington. But they use those skills to push a narrow ideology and win at any cost.So their offense is that that Republicans are ideologically "wrong-thinkers" plus the sneaky, intelligent bastards keep winning? Here's Howard Dean's take on Roberts:
John Roberts is a decent family man and a bright, articulate, thoughtful judge. He has a quality absent in previous right wing candidates like Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork, namely a judicial temperament that makes litigants feel that they have been respectfully heard whether they are on the winning or losing side of a verdict. ...So the problem is actually following the law? Is that what Dean really wanted to say? That the law doesn't protect the rights of people? Because it is Congress that makes the laws, and the Constitution does protect individual rights and freedoms. The Dems just keep pushing this theme, but I don't believe it is going to be a winner. Roberts kept replying to stuff about "heart" with comments like this:
Judge Roberts is said to love the law, but loving the law without loving the American people enough to protect their individual rights and freedoms will make our American community weaker. And the exercise of the law without compassion -- something that Judge Roberts and so many on the far right have consistently been guilty of -- undermines the grace and wisdom of the founders whose sense of balance and fairness made this country great.
Roberts replied that he had been asked him privately if he would take the side of the little guy. “You obviously want to give an immediate answer,” Roberts said, “but as you reflect on it, if the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy is going to win in court before me. But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well, then the big guy is going to win because my obligation is to the Constitution. That’s the oath. The oath that a judge takes is not that I’ll look out for particular interests. … The oath is: uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, and that’s what I would do.”I'm amazed at how the Democrats seem to be self-destructing with such determined force. From Richard Cohen (the problem is that Roberts hasn't failed) to stuff like this, they seem to be bitter about competence, logic and skeptical of determined achievement. They are so far out of step with the American electorate on this one that they sound like they've spent 40 years in cold storage. The minorities of America want what the majorities of America want, which is education, jobs and opportunity. The voters are interested in those who can facilitate that, and if Kennedy in the Senate is reduced to protesting feebly that the Supreme Court has to do it rather than picking up his end of the civil rights plank, why should they assume the man has anything real to offer?
What the Democratic national leadership seems to have crafted is a message that they are the plucky, bighearted, but hopelessly outclassed junior league team of American politics. This is not a winning message. The only way you can win with the message of "heart" is to have concrete plans to solve real (not media-created) problems. If this theme were put on a bumpersticker, it would read "Dems - Dumb, Helpless And Caring".
In the Katrina disaster they were reduced to claiming that the local (Democratic) leadership was clearly incompetent so the Republican President should have invaded Louisiania. Don't they realize the logical conclusion? Don't they realize the net effect of all these video bites? Dems - blubbering, despairing people helpless in the face of adversity. FEMA - putting Katrina volunteers through a week of political correctness programs. Don't they see the net effect is to rebut the message of all these special interest groups? That the hysterical, whining women's rightists appear to be a block to progress rather than a move forward?
Don't they see that the American public is going to look at all of this determined irrelevance and reject it in favor of the theory that you ought to just do something, dammit?
The truth is that Republicans aren't looking good, but the Democrats are looking terrible. And worse yet, to really address the root causes of what happened in New Orleans is going to take a massive local effort to improve disaster planning all over the country. While all of this is going on, the American citizens are organizing a very broad-based community effort to assist the victims of Katrina with jobs, housing and places in communities. The churches are pushing hard, local civic organizations are pushing hard, and many individuals are just acting on their own. The electorate as a whole is in a no-nonsense, cut the red-tape, let's-get-this-done mode.
Bureacrats and the insincere careerists in either party are not going to come out of this unscathed.
Minh-Duc - that's exactly right. Parties that don't face a genuine, vibrant opposition get captured by special interests. The only thing that is keeping the Republicans a little honest is that the media is working hard against them. Unfortunately the media isn't very competent either.
The people of America are very poorly served by this situation. We would all like to have two reasonable options at least when it comes to elections.
Have you seen the clip of Blanco being recorded on CNN, without her knowledge, saying that she should have called out the military ealier? As far as I am concerned that was the nail in the coffin for her (metaphorically)
After reading the DU thread, well, let's just say for some people there is a real disconnect with reality.
I mean, what can be said? How do youtalk to people like that?
The ferocious hate, the complete absence of reason and rationailty, only serve to highlight that real disconnect.
I did see Cindy Sheehan's statement about "occupied" New Orleans, though. It's up at Michael Moore's website. Cindy demands, just demands, that Bush get the troops out of NO. The freedom fighters had every right to loot. It's all Bush's fault anyway. Everyone knows that.
SC&A - what's worst about this is that the Kossites and the DU crew may have enough influence on the party as a whole to prevent rational Democrats from being heard.
It's not at all clear to me that successful mainstream Dem governors have a chance of being acceptable to the national Democratic party. You look at Pelosi, Reid, Biden, Kennedy and Dean, and you realize that the radicals control the party at the national level.
I think the Dems buried themselves with the Katrina fiasco in the middle and southern states for at least a decade. You can't build a successful national political party by trying to inflame racial tensions and inculcate irrationality.