George W. Bush may have taken a public relations hit from Hurricane Katrina, but one can rest assured that our American president is up to the task of managing the storm’s aftermath.
The first item on the agenda? Assign an overseer with the proper credentials for managing the post-storm efforts - those credentials beginning and ending with loyalty to Mr. Bush. To that end, "Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush’s chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort…" (New York Times, 9/15/05).
Second, it will be necessary to create layers of protection between Mr. Bush and criticism of his crisis management abilities. On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate rejected Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) proposed independent, bipartisan committee - using the 9/11 Commission as a template - to investigate the disastrously poor response from the government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As reported by the Associated Press, "Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no."
According to Senator Clinton, "I called for an independent Katrina Commission because it is simply not appropriate for government to investigate itself…we need an independent commission free of partisan politics." Speaking of partisan politics, the House of Representatives was quick to approve a Republican-dominated investigation into governmental failures. "On a near party-line vote, the House approved legislation Thursday creating a select committee to investigate preparation for Hurricane Katrina and subsequent response effort." (Roll Call, 9/15/05)
With Karl Rove and the Republican juggernaut protecting Mr. Bush’s back, we can watch as Hurricane Katrina becomes Iraq II - an opportunity for the Bush administration to milk every dollar they can from the public coffers as they plunge the nation further into debt.
It’s vital that we comprehend the economic magnitude of the rebuilding effort. According to the Washington Post (9/15/05), Bush will call for the U.S. "to spend more in the next year on the storm’s aftermath than it has over three years on the Iraq war…the federal tab for Katrina [is] already nearly quadruple the cost of the country’s previous most expensive natural disaster cleanup…" The article also notes that "some in [Bush’s] own party are already starting to recoil at a price tag expected to exceed $200 billion…some budget analysts and conservative groups are warning that the Katrina spending has combined with earlier fiscal decisions in ways that will wreak havoc on the government’s finances for years to come."
Those "earlier fiscal decisions" include the Iraq quagmire (invasion, destruction, ongoing occupation and attempted reconstruction) as well as Mr. Bush’s infamous tax-cut for the ultra-wealthy. Future generations are already stuck with paying for those decisions and will now also be footing the bill for the reconstruction of New Orleans.
Or, more accurately: They will be footing the bill for monies allocated for the reconstruction of New Orleans, not necessarily used for that purpose. The focus, of course, is not to help people, but to help Bush and Co. Mr. Bush has seen public perception of his Katrina response - coupled with the resulting spike in gasoline prices, and growing Iraq war fatigue - continue to chip away at his approval ratings.
From the New York Times (9/15/05): "For the first time, just half of Americans approve of Mr. Bush’s handling of terrorism, which has been his most consistent strength…More than 6 in 10 now say that he does not share their priorities for the country, 10 percentage points worse than on the eve of his reelection last fall, while barely half say he has strong qualities of leadership, about the same as said so at the early low-ebb of his presidency in the summer of 2001."
The White House response? "Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later. ‘Nothing can salve the wounds like money,’ said an official who helped develop the strategy." (TIME magazine, 9/11/05). And, as summarized by Josh Marshall (TalkingPointsMemo.com, 9/14/05): "What’s driving this budgetary push is not a natural disaster but a political crisis, the president’s political crisis. The White House is trying to undo self-inflicted political damage on the national dime…This will be Iraq all over again, with the same fetid mix of graft, zeal and hubris. Cronyism like you wouldn’t believe…The use of this money for political purposes, for what amounts to a political campaign, tells you everything you need to know about what’s coming." In other words, the post-storm looting was nothing compared to the government-sanctioned theft yet to come.
That’s the bad news - the Bush administration will continue to lie, deny, and steal American blind.
The worse news is that they will almost certainly continue to get away with it.