Not surprisingly, Paul Krugman sums it up nicely:
The lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina revealed to everyone that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which earned universal praise during the Clinton years, is a shell of its former self. The hapless Michael Brown - who is no longer overseeing relief efforts but still heads the agency - has become a symbol of cronyism.
But what we really should be asking is whether FEMA's decline and fall is unique, or part of a larger pattern. What other government functions have been crippled by politicization, cronyism and/or the departure of experienced professionals? How many FEMA's are there?
Not that that's a particularly original thought, it's just that I'm glad it's being articulated. It seems to me that this basic point -- how many people lost their lives and their homes as a result of republican cronyism, and how deep does republican cronyism go in this government? -- is one that Democrats have to hit relentlessly. Every Democrat, in the reddest of states, has got to make it clear that the Katrina disaster could have been avoided if only we had had people who take their jobs seriously.
The argument really makes itself, and it's virtually air-tight. Michael Brown is/was unqualified. No one disputes this. President Bush appointed him to his position because of political connections. The president doesn't take his job seriously, and he doesn't take the job of the head of FEMA seriously; that puts American lives in jeopardy. Speaking of putting American lives in jeopardy, here's the second part of what every Democrat should say:
And finally, what about the department of Homeland Security itself? FEMA was neglected, some people say, because it was folded into a large agency that was focused on terrorist threats, not natural disasters. But what, exactly, is the department doing to protect us from terrorists?
In 2004 Reuters reported a "steady exodus" of counterterrorism officials, who believed that the war in Iraq had taken precedence over the real terrorist threat. Why, then, should we believe that Homeland Security is being well run?
So to sum up, seems to me there are three main points that should be repeated endlessly:
1) Bush's appointment of a man with no qualifications except for political connections to FEMA ensured that lives were lost.
2) How many more executive branch agencies that serve important functions in our society are being run political cronies? How many American lives are at risk as a result of this?
3) If Bush can appoint a political crony to such an important position, what's to make us think that the people fighting the "
global war on terrorism" " global struggle against violent extremism" "global war on terrorism" are qualified? Why should we believe that the president is serious about our safety?