Cry Me A River

George W. Bush, for the first time in his Presidency, accepted responsibility yesterday for the failings of the Federal government.

Sort of.

While not exactly striking the tone of Harry Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” motto, Mr. Bush admitted — a full fortnight after the fact — the Federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the nation’s Gulf Coast August 29th “exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government,” and begs the question: “Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm?”

After two weeks of withering criticism, Mr. Bush seems to almost grok that, among things a President of the United States of America can do during one of the worst catastrophies of the modern era — playing golf, hawking Medicare reform, and jetting off to fundraisers (while supposedly on vacation) — well, …aren’t your best choices.

Perhaps he understands more people than he’s used to are finally paying attention; perhaps his fundamental ineptitude as a leader is hurting him in the polls.

I wonder if Mr. Bush connects the feeling he has when he goes to sleep each night with that of the proverbial frog in the slow-boiling pot.

Since first surveying Katrina’s damage from the cozy confines of Air Force One two days after she’d had her way with the The Big Easy, the President will make his fourth trip to Louisiana on Thursday. After calling FEMA chief Michael Brown back to Washington, DC this past Saturday, Mr. Bush finally “accepted his resignation” on Monday.

Tellingly, he lied when first pressed for comment on Mr. Brown’s departure, joking with the press corps, “‚ÄúMaybe you know something I don‚Äôt know. I‚Äôve been working,‚Äù during an inspection tour of damage in Gulfport, Miss.

But White House sources say Mr. Bush had already talked to the Chief of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, on the flight down, and knew Mr. Brown’s resignation was in hand. What he didn’t know was that Mr. Brown had announced it to the public.

Mr. Brown is the first official of the Bush Administration to leave in disgrace, despite several high-profile miscues one might ordinarily think would lead to the loss of high-echelon jobs, including the deliberate revelation of an under-cover CIA agent’s identity, systematic torture and human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons, the failure to produce ANY weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, along with sundry and assorted environmental and financial malfeasances.

The administration now strikes an uncharacteristically conciliatory tone to keep its reform juggernaut on the rails, sacrificing the unqualified, dissembling figurehead of an emasculated agency to preserve its quest for school vouchers and tax incentives for business, and to let the nation know the President means business when he says, “it’s in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on ‚Äî so that we can better respond” to another natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Please.

Mr. Brown certainly deserved to lose his job in the wake of the Federal government’s response to a Category 4 hurricane, but, seriously, where is Michael Chertoff’s head on a pike? Mr. Chertoff leads the Department of Homeland Security, the Bush administration’s Executive response to the defining moment of 9/11. He was the Federal official with the actual authority to extend or withold whatever resources our Federal government may have, the entity Mr. Bush himself endowed with responsibility for everything that failed to manifest in Katrina’s wake.

Tim Grieve wrote this morning in Salon’s excellent War Room,

At a press conference in April 2004, George W. Bush was asked four times whether he had made any mistakes in his presidency. Amid questions about that Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing, amid a stagnant economy and what would soon become the deadliest month to do date in Iraq, the president dodged, then dodged, then dodged again before saying: “You know, I just — I’m sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn’t yet.”

Seventeen months later Mr. Bush is now able to produce a conditional acceptance of responsibility. He isn’t saying — and he hasn’t really said — the federal government didn’t do its job right in the aftermath of Katrina.

But if it didn’t, he’ll take responsibility.

At this point, we have only ourselves to blame if he doesn’t.

Comments

  1. Michael Herdegen - September 14, 2005 @ 9:50 pm

    Why don’t you like school vouchers ?

    They benefit the poor and underprivileged far more than anyone else.

    [S]ystematic torture and human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons…

    Rather, “torture”.

    Discomfort and humiliation are quite tame compared to being fed into a plastic shredder, dunked into a vat of acid, or forced to watch the rape and beating of your wife and kids, as happened under Saddam, or having your fingernails be removed with pliers while being whipped with barbed wire, as happened under Pol Pot.
    Only one doctor and two lawyers, out of the entire population of doctors and lawyers in Cambodia, survived the Killing Fields.

    When people call being forced to stand for twelve hours, listen to loud and unpleasant music, or wear panties on one’s head “torture”, it’s another boot to the face of those who have ACTUALLY BEEN tortured, as well as an indication that the speaker of such nonsense is removed from reality.

  2. lonbud - September 14, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

    When you come up with school vouchers that let poor and underprivileged kids go to Andover and Yale, Michael, we’ll talk about school vouchers.

    News Flash: This isn’t about Saddam, or Pol Pot, or Hitler, Stalin, or Bill Clinton. This is about George W. Motherfucking Bush.

    People have been killed at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and have been held without charge or consultation with family or legal counsel for years.

    You and every citizen of this nation who doesn’t demand accountability for the Bush administration’s war crimes and crimes against humanity are the ones removed from reality.

  3. Michael Herdegen - September 14, 2005 @ 10:51 pm

    Apparently you got up on the wrong side of the bed, or are drunk.

    How will condemning poor kids to substandard schools help them get into Yale ?

    There have been many court cases brought on behalf of those being held at Guantanamo and elsewhere; the rulings indicate the the Bush admin is abiding by the U.S. Constitution.

    [D]emand accountability for the Bush administration’s war crimes and crimes against humanity [!]

    The statement speaks for itself, in terms of remove from reality.

  4. Bubbles - September 14, 2005 @ 10:57 pm

    So did anyone else read this story today?

    http://www.cpj.org/index.html

    Seems like some pretty high numbers and its quite odd that not one of them deserves a closer look?

  5. lonbud - September 15, 2005 @ 1:32 am

    Sometimes I feel I’ve gotten up on the wrong side of the millennium, Michael, though remove from reality is the least of my worries.

    School vouchers are to free poor kids from substandard schools? Who is your crack dealer?

    Yes. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, and a host of others should spend the rest of this life in prison.

    Bubbles’ reference to the fragging of journalists in Iraq is the tip of an iceberg.

  6. Michael Herdegen - September 15, 2005 @ 2:55 am

    What, then, is the purpose of school vouchers ?

  7. charles rachlis - September 15, 2005 @ 5:43 am

    September 14, 2005

    Headline “I take responsibility” Bush on Katrina.

    Sorry Mr. President, you are incapable of taking responsibility. Only those who have the ability to respond can “take responsibility”. Millions of people from around the world have done what they can to respond. The poorest nations and masses of working people here at home have dug deep. Many hero’s and heroines stepped forward and took responsibility.

    You Sir, can not take responsibility.
    Your frat boy style of leadership is and always has been dedicated to one thing, the enrichment of your class and most particularly your circle of friends. Be they “Bandar Bush” or “Kenny Boy” or “Brownie”. In the most powerful seat of government in the world with the recourses of the greatest economic and military power available to your office you stood by unable to respond and ignored the greatest disaster in the “Homeland” since long before you slapped that moniker on your inept Security agency.

    Your crony filled administration is nothing but a cabal of what President Eisenhower warned us of in his farewell address, “the military industrial complex”. The revolving door between the highest offices in the land and the corporate vendors to the federal government (war & disaster profiteers) plays out like a bad novel.

    Frankly Sir, that you “take responsibility” rings hollow as we watch you hand no bid contracts to Halliburton and bring in the Blackwater Mercenaries to “secure and rebuild”.
    Even before Emergency Response was in place your administration announced suspension of Davis Bacon Act wage determinations for the restoration project. Robbing the workers of what they will need most. Prevailing wage work with the training and protection to work in the toxic soup that is New Orleans today.

    The billions promised from government for hurricane relief and the millions donated by the people must go to the people not to profiteers. Oversight by the evacuee population of the planning for, the implementation of and the right to preferential hiring for the restoration project is a far more democratic way of addressing the crisis than handing the project over to your buddies so they can have a bumper quarter.

  8. charles rachlis - September 15, 2005 @ 6:02 am

    As for vouchers. A side bar in the lonbud artical at most…The claim that public eduation does not meet its mandate is shared by many on the right and the left however rather than fix a system skewed and skewered by it tie to property taxes, the purpose of the voucher system is to undermine public education. Public education is a hard fought for right won in conjunction with the struggle to end childhood labor. The vouchers the right is pushing for will defund the secular public school system and further promote religious schools. Free fully funded public education from pre-school through graduate level is long overdue. The disingenous claim that those oppsed to vouchers do not want to see the poor educated is a straw man argument or a ploy at best. Vouchers are clearly an individual solution to a social problem. That social problem is as I stated the fact that public education is funded by local property tax. Universal funding standards, wages for teachers to attract and keep promising young educators, is essential to overcome the segregation that continues in education. Segregation in public education is not only racial but class based and it is worse now than in the days of Jim Crow and “legal segregation”. The right wing weasels away from the fact with the promotion of their concept of choice but the reality is they refuse to fund the underfunded populations and thereby continue the vicious cycle of poverty that began with slavery and endentured servitude and continues today with the offshoring of manufacturing to countries where we send our tax dollars to prop up military systems that enforce childhood labor in the sweat shops of the companies that send us our clothing and that are held by our 401k’s on wall street in our mixed portfolios. It is oh so easy to say hey I got mine. My kids are at school but to buy stock in companies that employ fascist goons to maintain slave like conditions forcing young people to work for nothing. Honduras and El Salvador come to mind.

  9. lonbud - September 15, 2005 @ 7:59 am

    The purpose of school vouchers is to give yet another tax break to upper-middle and upper class families who can already afford to send their kids to private school. I have never seen a school voucher proposal that was worth more than a few thousand dollars and there is hardly a private school in the country where that buys maybe a quarter of the tuition. And tuition is just the beginning of what it costs to send a kid to private school.

    But, as Charles said, we’re in sidebar territory here.

    Do you believe the Department of Homeland Security is capable of fulfilling its mission? Do you believe Chertoff has done “a heck of a job?”

    Let’s keep our eye on the ball, shall we?

  10. Paul Burke - September 15, 2005 @ 8:44 am

    Dear Mr. Bush,
    You know how to win a race but you don’t know what to do when you get there. You have a lack of vision, and what vision you have is limited to your own pocketbook and self interest. Actions speak louder than words. You stayed on vacation when your citizens needed you. No amount of Rove spin strategy can make that go away. You need to know I am a supporter of your efforts in IRAQ if they bring about real freedom and democratic change for the citizens of that country, and somehow lead to the capture of Bin Laden. However, I am continually horrified at your lack of business sense; the amount of pork in the energy and transportation bills; your inability to grasp that a healthy environment lowers health care costs; and your inability to grasp that we need to move away from dirty fuel sources to clean ones. In a vision for New Orleans and this country you might want to add a few more refineries new ones built within EPA standards, increase the size of the levies, restore the marsh land, and not rebuild in the low lying areas. I might also suggest concentrating poor people all in one area doesn’t work. If we are going to help the poor as your bible states we are compelled to do then we must help them by integrating them into successful communities where the opportunity to join the work force is ample. Concentrating them in dead end housing projects compounds the despair, crime and drug use that eventually infiltrates the surrounding areas. We are products of our environment. In retrospect it is easy to see the cause and motivation of the rolling blackouts in California and the high gas prices at the pumps are just the market manipulations of an unsuccessfully regulated industry. The government of the United States will not succeed if it practices absentee management.

  11. Bubbles - September 15, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

    So like just about everything else this Administration does the relief effort will not be competently run but it will be competently spun.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2005/09/15/BL2005091501098.html

  12. Lore Cailor - September 16, 2005 @ 8:44 am

    No point in moaning and groaning about Bush’s incompetence and complete lack of understading of what is going on around him. Middle America voted him in because “he seemed like the more Critstian man” now the rest of us are stuck with him. And no matter how anyone feels about him, he’s here to stay (at least for the next 4 years)

  13. lonbud - September 16, 2005 @ 9:24 pm

    Your fatalism may be spot on, Lore, but I believe many people in this country would agree Mr. Bush is not merely a failure, but also a criminal — or, at least a criminally negligent helmsman.

    Sort of a Joseph Hazelwood writ large.

    The daily death toll in Iraq, interest rates, the Valerie Plame investigation, and the terrorist wild-card will each have something to say about the length of Mr. Bush’s tenure in Washington.

  14. Michael Herdegen - September 17, 2005 @ 8:12 pm

    Interest rates ?

    Bush and Greenspan are now in cahoots ?

    If you mean long-term market rates, they haven’t budged, although the Fed is trying hard to get ’em to head up.
    Nobody is expecting any inflation.

  15. lonbud - September 17, 2005 @ 8:39 pm

    who said anything about cahoots?

    regardless of what anyone is expecting, the bush administration’s reign is nothing if not inflationary, and yet greenspan knows interest rates must be kept in the wee single digits for this economy to keep on truckin’…

    it’s a real conundrum for the oligharcy.

  16. Bubbles - September 18, 2005 @ 1:11 am

    lb – you forgot the ‘party on Garth’

    Clearly even the faithful in Congress began to sift around in their seats when they heard the ‘no new taxes’ refrain this time.

    Michael,

    The thing about change (as Katrina and 9/11 have both so eloquently pointed out) is it can come blindside in the form of a 2×4 to the temple. Next thing you notice is this deafening sucking sound about as subtle as a train whistle signaling a new value for the US $. Anyone looked at the ‚Äòyellow metal‚Äô lately ;-o

  17. Michael Herdegen - September 18, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

    Bubbles:

    Yes, there are both advantages and disadvantages to having either a strong or weak currency.

    The biggest edge that the U.S. dollar gives America, with no downside that I’m aware of, is that it’s the world’s reserve currency.
    That status is in no danger, despite the slide against the rest of the world over the past few years.

  18. Michael Herdegen - September 18, 2005 @ 4:34 pm

    Besides, lonbud ought to love a weak U.S. dollar, since he despises Wal~Mart, the Chinese & third-world companies that supply Wal~Mart, and those who shop there.

    A weak dollar should mean that more American companies supply Wal~Mart, and fewer people shop there, since prices have to rise somewhat.

  19. lonbud - September 19, 2005 @ 7:16 am

    What will it say for the world when its reserve currency becomes worthless?

    And yes, you are right that I despise Wal-Mart, Michael, though not nearly so much for the cheap crap sold there as for the way the corporation itself treats its workers and affects the communities where it does business. I have no quarrel with Wal-Mart shoppers; everybody needs to buy stuff from time to time.

    A weak dollar should mean that more American companies supply Wal-Mart, except that American companies don’t really make stuff anymore. America is a service economy nowadays, and is swiftly moving toward being a virtual one.

  20. Bubbles - September 19, 2005 @ 1:17 pm

  21. Michael Herdegen - September 19, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

    The U.S. dollar won’t become worthless until the American economy underperforms the rest of the G7 1/2 and the developing world for about a decade.

    Since Western Europe, Russia, Japan, and South Korea all face immense demographic problems, and the PR of China faces both demographic problems and political turmoil, the U.S. dollar will be both the world’s reserve currency, and fairly strong, until at least 2050.

    The service sector is increasing as a share of the American economy, but America still manufactures much more stuff than we did in the 70s.
    The difference is that we do it much more efficiently, so a lower percentage of the U.S. workforce is employed in manufacturing, (although in absolute numbers the manufacturing sector just set a new record for employment), and the increased American manufacturing base didn’t grow as fast as the overall economy, so manufacturing captures a lower percentage of U.S. GNP.

    The “virtual” aspect of the U.S. economy is indeed growing rapidly, and good on it, since that’s where the future lies.

  22. lonbud - September 20, 2005 @ 11:33 pm

    My guess, Michael, is that sometime well before 2050 you’ll be served a steaming portion of virtual humble pie.

    Exactly what kinds of stuff do we manufacture more of now than we did in the 70s? And why pick the 70s? Why not the 50s or the 80s?

    I’ll give you the nod on efficiency increases having trimmed employment numbers, but I’m not sure what you mean by in absolute numbers the manufacturing sector just set a new record for employment. On the face of it you would appear to be saying there are presently more people employed in the manufacturing sector than at any time in history, which, in the absence of a citation I will doubt to be the case.

    Regardless, as a percentage of both employed people and of GNP, American manufactuing has been in steady decline since at least the 70s.

  23. Bubbles - September 20, 2005 @ 11:53 pm

    lb.

    Michaels right because of one simple fact. There are more people. I believe there are about 50 million more people in the US in the last 20(ish) years. He’s wrong if you corrected for population inflation.

  24. Michael Herdegen - September 22, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

    lonbud:

    My guess, Michael, is that sometime well before 2050 you’ll be served a steaming portion of virtual humble pie.

    That’s true – you’re just guessing.
    How about some reason, other than blind disbelief in America, why some other currency would become the world’s reserve currency ?

    I provided a scenario under which that would happen, and two reasons why it won’t.

    Do you have any logical argument that could show that either reason is factually wrong, or that their effects will somehow be positive for the affected nations ?

    Here’s an interesting headline from what is unfortunately a pay site:

    Articles in the September 1, 2005 Issue Of Manufacturing & Technology News : “Clinton’s Top Economist Says Imports Have Not Cost U.S. Manufacturers Jobs”

    Here’s how the National Association of Manufacturers breaks down the vast cornucopia of goods that the U.S. produces:

    Manufacturing, Excluding High Tech:

    Durable Goods:
    Wood Products
    Non-Metallic Mineral Products
    Primary Metals
    Iron and Steel Mill Products
    Fabricated Metals
    Machinery
    Computers and Electronic Products
    Semiconductors
    Electrical Equipment and Appliances
    Transportation Equipment
    Aerospace Equipment
    Cars and Light Trucks
    Heavy Trucks
    Furniture

    Non-Durable Goods:
    Food Products
    Beverages and Tobacco Products
    Textile Materials
    Textile Products
    Apparel
    Paper Products
    Printing
    Petroleum and Coal Products
    Chemicals
    Pharmaceuticals
    Plastic and Rubber Products
    Tires

    According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 durable goods manufacturing industries grew 5.9%, 40% faster than U.S. GDP as a whole. (PDF)

    According to NAM’s 2005 Annual Labor Day Report (PDF), real hourly compensation in the manufacturing sector has risen 5.6% from ’04.

    So, contrary to this assertion, American companies don’t really make stuff anymore, American manufacturers are currently growing, in some industries faster than the American economy as a whole, and manufacturing sector employees are enjoying significant real wage increases.

    HOWEVER, this statement is false: in absolute numbers the manufacturing sector just set a new record for employment

    You are correct, I was saying that there are presently more people employed in the manufacturing sector than at any time in history, but I was wrong about that.

    Although according to NAM’s 2005 Annual Labor Day Report there are a record number of non-farm employees currently at work in America, around 134 million of them, that is a highwater mark for the American economy as a whole, and not for the manufacturing sector.

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual average employment in manufacturing was about 17 million between 1994 and 2000, whereas in 2005 there are roughly 20% fewer people employed in manufacturing, or around 14,250,000, which is about 11% of the entire employed labor force.

    Here is what noted economist and NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman had to say back in ’94, before he went insane:

    …We still are not a country that is used to having a lot of international trade for a long time, such as Britain. Britain has three times as much international trade, relative to their economy, as we do, and they actually talk about it less than we do. They are used to the idea that, sure, a lot of output gets exported, and a lot of consumption gets imported, and they very rarely obsess about their competitive position.

    What is true now is that, despite the increase in international trade, we are more than 70 percent a service economy. Very few services can be sold internationally because they are not transportable. Even quite a few of the goods we produce are not easily transportable. For example, at this point, while the great bulk of the TVs that are sold in the United States are from foreign-owned firms, nearly all of the picture tubes are made in the United States.

    Picture tubes turn out to be something that are hard to ship internationally because they break, so there is a manufactured good that is not very tradable. And so, overall, in [1993] imports were about 11 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. A hundred years ago, they were about 8 percent.

    The reason that we have the impression that it has increased by leaps and bounds is partly that there was a great collapse in international trade because of the two world wars and the depression. If you go back to when John F. Kennedy was president, we still only had about 4 percent imports, so we have sprung back, but in fact, we are not all that globalized, even now. […]

    Q: Will the U.S. be more dependent on trade in the future?

    A: Over the last century, there have been two offsetting forces operating on international trade. On the one hand, transportation and communication costs have continued to fall so that the ability to ship goods around the world is much greater than it was. On the other hand, we’ve increasingly become a service economy and services remain, by and large, non-tradable.

    Q: Why have we become more of a service economy?

    A: Manufacturing has become less important for the same reason that agriculture earlier became less important. [Emph. add.] […]
    Productivity has grown in manufacturing, which means we need fewer and fewer workers and the prices get lower so we spend more and more of our income on the things we can’t automate, which tend to be in the service sector.

    The actual ratio of the output of manufacturing – the constant dollar output of manufacturing’s share of the economy – has been almost exactly constant for the past four years. But the share of the value of the economy that originates from manufacturing is steadily declining, and that’s all because of the higher productivity growth. That’s true around the world.

    If you look at any particular manufacturing industry, you discover that the international trade in that industry has grown, that the industry has been more finely divided into little slices of value added in different parts of the world, and you say, “Wow, globalization has increased by leaps and bounds.” But then you look at the overall numbers and discover that the share of trade in the economy has not increased very much. The reason is that more and more, the economy is concerned with producing things that can’t be traded.

    In the long run, everything will be tradable. In the millennium, you will be able to get all of your services by slipping on your virtual reality helmet and have them delivered over whatever the future Internet is, right?
    But that’s a long way off. It’s not going to happen for quite a long time.

  25. MIKE JOHNSTON - September 29, 2005 @ 9:09 am

    George Bush caused hurricane Katrina and Rita. it is all his fault…very very very bad president! all jokers..

  26. lonbud - September 29, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

    MJ is pretty late to the table here … still having a tough time thinking of something coherent to say, but clearly unfazed by his president’s lack of managerial skills. amazing.

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