Two days ago I wrote the following words:
I'm generally of the opinion that the unmitigated disaster that is Hurricane Katrina shouldn't be unnecessarily politicized.
And those are words that I would say again today. But something has fundamentally changed since then, and that's what the word "unnecessarily" means.
Katrina is one of those galvanizing disasters in American history, obviously the most significant event in human terms since 9/11 and possibly more damaging. And it's moments like these when the stakes of partisan politics become clear -- when there's an obvious right and an obvious wrong. As the unfortunately fictional President Bartlet said on the West Wing to a republican opponent:
Every once in a while, every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts.
This week has been one of those days, and it has included body counts.
There is a right way to handle a natural disaster in New Orleans in both the long and short term. It might include things like spending money prudently, preparing extensively, clear command and control, gaining an immediate grasp on the scope of the disaster, mobilizing resources quickly, getting the right amount of supplies to people who need them, and showing strong leadership to a shocked country.
There is also a wrong way to handle a natural disaster in New Orleans in both the long and short term. It might include things like budget cuts that slowed improvements to the New Orleans levee system, a slow response by FEMA, lying about how slow FEMA's response was, a war of choice that ensures that the national guard is understaffed on US soil, a president who is more interested in guitar strumming than in leading, a basic incompetent unawareness of the facts on the ground, a suggestion that New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt, and a lack of compassion for those stuck in the situation.
The Bush administration has virtually written a textbook on the wrong way to handle a natural disaster. And if you think that's a partisan thing to say, well, it is. But it's also an honest thing to say, and anyone who would deny it is just not in touch with reality. But then, we know that many republicans pride themselves on not being members of the reality-based community.
Fundamentally, we live in a republic, in which people are supposed to elect their leaders based on their ability to govern, their philosophy of governing, and their actions in governing. The Bush administration has failed miserably in all three of those categories: they don't have the ability to run government, their philosophy is wrong, and their actions have been incompetent. Though the administration has consistently fooled the people for the last four and a half years with threats of non-exist weapons and treacherous opponents, as well as a lot of American flag lapels, this failure is too massive, too catastrophic, too incompetent for even Karl Rove's black magic to cover it up.
When people running the government fuck it up, they should be held accountable. And so complaining about their fuck-up with the view of kicking them all out of office next year and in the years after isn't unnecessary partisanship. It's what's supposed to happen. Our republican executive branch has showed itself unfit to handle precisely the thing it needs to handle most. And to call them on it is every citizen's duty.
Call it politics, call it real life, I don't care. Calling it something doesn't change the fact that they have failed at it, and that they should and will lose their governing power as a result.