Friday, September 16, 2005


Tangled Up In Blue

There was a "Max Headroom" quality to George W. Bush's address to the nation Thursday.

Appearing in a casual-looking
powder-blue (or blue-appearing) shirt -- has a president ever given a prime-time speech to the nation in something other than a normal business suit? -- with New Orleans' Jackson Square emitting a blue-ish hue caused Bush's head to appear disconnected from the sea of blue in the screen.

Well, that symbolic disconnection is something that Congress needs to address. The president, after all, is only part of the government. He is not the government.

Conservatives are rightly
aghast at the price tag that they are being asked to swallow in rebuilding New Orleans. However, that is "only" money. The phrase that jumps out of Bush's speech that is more-than-mildly disconcerting is what William Arkin correctly nails: "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."

So, 9/11 required that the country accept a greater "security" framework, including the passing of the Patriot Act, having nail clippers confiscated when boarding planes -- and the more visible role of the military in general at airports, and train and bus stations.

And now, a natural disaster requires a greater acceptance of more "fedearal authority and a broader role for the armed forces"? Um, the only thing that is "required" here is a major congressional discussion of this concept. We've never had a natural disaster before in the country? Katrina demands a permanent change in the relationship between local civilian control and the military? Outstanding failure of government requires more government authority? That sounds like a topic for some major debate.

Bush said, "When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem and for the solution."

Actually, with consultation and oversight from the Congress, a suitable solution should be found.

Ironically, my friend ERA mentioned something appropos just days into the Katrina crisis:

While I know it won't stop the finger pointing and it shouldn't . . .but additional subtext to the New Orleans recovery saga not being reported is the ugly history between New Orleans and the federal government. Remember, Louisiana was nearly the last state to come out of Reconstruction because of New Orleans. Our nation has a Posse Comitatus Act, barring Federal troops from acting as police/law enforcement, for a reason and mainly because of events in New Orleans during Reconstruction. So, while it is easy in hindsight to see post-Katrina efforts are "clearly not acceptable," and it will not be as easy to see the historic reluctance by Washington to get overly involved in New Orleans's internal affairs and TRULY understand why New Orleans had no adequate infrastructure prepared for catastrophe. Historic paradigm shifts are rarely recognized within 24 to 48 hour periods.
Is Congress willing to accept the implications of the paradigm shift George W. Bush is putting on the table?

In addition to "War on Terror I", will George W. Bush want to be responsible for Reconstruction II and War on Poverty II?

Sequels don't often turn out so well.

UPDATE: I have been told by a number of folks that Jimmy Carter's infamous "malaise" speech is the one that comes to mind featuring a president in non-business attire for a major speech (a casual sweater). An uncomfortable comparison, to say the least.

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