Wednesday, September 21, 2005
How Katrina's Single-Handedly Changing Politics
It's been three weeks since Hurricane Katrina unleashed her wrath on the Gulf, killing 1000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as wreaking utter destruction on the region. Some call it the worst natural disaster ever, depending upon how one measures such things. Surely, it will remain--alongside the great San Francisco earthquake of 1908; Pearl Harbor; the Kennedy assassination; and the 9-11 terrorist attacks--as one of the most infamous, tragic and memorable events in modern American history. But its true legacy might just be how it's single-handedly changing the political landscape in our country today.
For example, can you name the author who made this statement following President Bush's address to the nation last Thursday where he outlined his reconstruction plan?: "I could not have been prouder of the president... Mr. President, I am ready for duty. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work." That was Donna Brazile, crackerjack Democratic Strategist and campaign manager to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. Or how about the following quote regarding Bush's persistent naming of under-qualified cronies to major security posts: "The Bush administration has barely rebounded from the resignation of horse-show organizer Michael 'Heck of a job' Brown from FEMA, and yet is pushing forward with the nomination of another inexperienced bureaucrat to a key post at the Department of Homeland Security. If this is an example of Karl Rove's political genius, get him some stupid pills quick." James Carville you say? Guess again. Try conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. She was writing about Bush's imminent appointment of Julie Myers--daughter of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers and wife of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff's chief of staff--to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), an area in which she has no experience whatsoever.
What's more, Republicans on the hill are turning against Bush and each other over the administration's colossal planning, rescue and relief failures, as well as the subsequent out-of-control spending on reconstruction. Katrina has also served to quite effectively expose the Bushies' unprecedented ineptitude on a number of domestic fronts, as well as cast new light on the financial and military wastefulness of the Iraq war. Lastly, what the hurricane has also done is wake up the media, which has been asleep at the wheel since Bush took office in 2001. It's found its conscious and its spine, and is now relishing in vilifying Bush at every turn. The gloves are off, and the teflon has melted.
So what on earth is going on here? It's simple. The storm unleashed more than Mother Nature's fury. It's served to uncage 5 1/2 years of pent up passion, anger and frustration on both sides of the aisle. But more important, it's causing politicians and strategists to begin to think practically rather than engage in non-stop partisan chicanery. Donna Brazile? She's a New Orleans native, and the human suffering there clearly has taken her beyond party politics. Michelle Malkin? She's an American just like us, and perhaps she's sick and tired--and scared--of seeing how little this administration has done and is doing do truly protect us.
Furthermore, the GOP has come to the stark realization that Bush is a lame duck, and if it's ever going to retain power in the '06 mid-terms and in '08, it needs to begin distancing itself from the president, his plummeting poll numbers, and America's lack of faith in his leadership. The country is headed in the wrong direction, voters say, and Republican lawmakers don't want to get swept up in that potentially disastrous wave of negativity.
For Bush, Katrina's dubious distinction is that it's the one event that's forced him to finally accept responsibility--albeit half-heartedly and unconvincingly--for what's occurred on his watch. But it appears to be a little too late.
Perhaps the line between Left and Right is finally blurring a little, and we have Katrina to thank for that. Despite its destructive force in the Gulf, maybe it's helping to heal a divided nation. Now that would be a much better legacy I suspect. Andy