Friday, September 02, 2005
Not your father’s GOP
Even the usually mild-mannered Kevin Drum is outraged:
CLUELESS . . . . Could the people in charge of managing the catastrophe in New Orleans possibly be more clueless?
George W. Bush, President of the United States, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina: “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.”
Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, following widespread eyewitness reports of refugees living like animals at the Convention Center: “I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the Convention Center who don’t have food and water.”
Mike Brown, Director of FEMA, referring to people who were stuck in New Orleans largely because they were too poor to afford the means to leave: “. . . those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city. . .”
Patrick Rhode, deputy director of FEMA, commenting on his agency’s performance after four days of steadily increasing urban warfare, deeply flawed coordination, and continuing inability to evacuate refugees: “Probably one of the most efficient and effective responses in the country’s history.”
Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, providing needed reassurance to the newly homeless: “It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level. . . . It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.”
This is beyond belief. What’s with these people?
Well, Kevin, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that these people are Republicans. Not just any kind of Republicans, either—they’re modern Republicans. Modern Republicans are not the Republicans you and I remember from childhood, Kevin. Those Republicans balanced budgets. They built highways. They did social infrastructure, and they did disaster management. They knew where other countries were, too. They helped to fund universities, and they didn’t mind that university professors taught the theory of evolution. Some of them were even pretty good on civil rights.
Modern Republicans have left all that behind. They don’t like government; they want, in Lovable Furry Old Grover Norquist’s famous words, to shrink government to the size at which it can be drowned in the bathtub. Consequently, when they get into government, they quickly fill its halls with two kinds of people: people who are charged with the task of destroying the agencies they run, and people who have no idea whatsoever about how their agencies work. (Reagan set the template: James Watt at Interior, Clarence Thomas at the EEOC, Anne Gorsuch at EPA, among the destroyers; Samuel Pierce at HUD, among the no-idea-whatsoevers. FEMA gets the latter group.) So your modern Republicans don’t do disaster management. In fact, there’s a lot of things they don’t do anymore. Basically, they’re down to two things: one wing retools the tax code so as to redistribute wealth to their friends and cronies in the top .001 of American society, and the other wing works to expel gays and lesbians from the body politic. That’s about it. They don’t even do war very well anymore, to be honest. If it doesn’t involve hoarding wealth or crusading against gays and lesbians, their hearts aren’t really in it. (That’s why they’ve been pretty good at the “hoarding wealth” part of the Iraqi occupation but not so good at the military and diplomatic parts. And of course they like where the Islamist clerics stand on gays and lesbians, too.)
Now, I know some folks will say that I’m not being entirely fair to modern Republicans. They’re right, I’m not. Some modern Republicans, such as the Dauphin, like to dress up in lots of specially personalized uniforms. But that’s not a matter of public policy.
When the levees first broke, I thought that the Bush Administration had drawn up a list of American Cities Worth Saving. You know, Denver, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Omaha, Richmond, Tallahassee, Topeka, and of course Dallas and Houston. And cities not worth saving—the rest of ‘em. But now I don’t think they got even that far. They’re not specifically motivated to abandon New Orleans just because the city is full of poor people and African-Americans; they simply never gave a serious thought to New Orleans one way or the other. Now, if the mayor of New Orleans had been conducting gay marriages, then sure, the federal government would have intervened in a heartbeat. But repeated warnings of natural disasters? Plans for delivering food, water, and medicine to trapped survivors? Your modern Republican doesn’t read those. In fact, he fires people who persist in writing ‘em after they’ve been told to chill.
Kevin, we could use a man like Thomas Dewey again. But he was from your father’s GOP, and that Old School is long, long gone.