Though I'm not generally a Tom Friedman fan, his column in the Times tomorrow about Bush and Katrina is on the better side as far as he goes. Having said that, why it is that anyone is still saying stuff like the following is beyond me:
On the day after 9/11, I was in Jerusalem and was interviewed by Israeli TV. The reporter asked me: "Do you think the Bush administration is up to responding to this attack?" As best I can recall, I answered: "Absolutely. One thing I can assure you about these guys is that they know how to pull the trigger."
It was just a gut reaction that George Bush and Dick Cheney were the right guys to deal with Osama. I was not alone in that feeling, and as a result, Mr. Bush got a mandate, almost a blank check, to rule from 9/11 that he never really earned at the polls. Unfortunately, he used that mandate not simply to confront the terrorists but to take a radically uncompassionate conservative agenda - on taxes, stem cells, the environment and foreign treaties - that was going nowhere before 9/11, and drive it into a post-9/11 world. In that sense, 9/11 distorted our politics and society.
Well, if 9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration, Katrina may be the other. If 9/11 put the wind at President Bush's back, Katrina's put the wind in his face. If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.
Bush/Cheney, even if they seemed like they were the "right guys" to Tom at the time, turned out to be the wrong guys. Tom Friedman knows this. Surely it's not worth reminding him that they haven't actually, um, caught Osama?
I'm sorry, Tom, did you miss that? Here is it again:
Right guys = people who catch Osama.
Wrong guys = people who waste military resources not catching Osama.
Maybe Friedman is right that 9/11 and Katrina will be viewed as the big markers in the Bush presidency. But that's only because they'll both be viewed as failures. Bush isn't and wasn't serious about protecting his own citizens from terrorism, as he showed by invading a country that wasn't a real terrorist (or any other kind of) threat. Nor is he serious about protecting his own citizens from natural disasters, as all but the most willfully blind partisans are forced to admit.
And the fact that a liberal hawk can continue to perpetuate the myth that the Bush administration is remotely competent, well, about anything at all, can only be a sign of similarly willful blindness.