Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Case Against George W. Bush (Fall 2005 Edition)

The Katrina disaster has served to highlight the incompetence and corruption of the Bush administration. Some of this dates back to long before the hurricane. Bush appointed Joe Allbaugh, a political crony with no disaster management experience to head up FEMA. In a prime example of the political spoils system as it exists today, he quit after two years, immediately taking a job as a lobbyist for corporations (including Halliburton) trying to score FEMA contracts, and tapped his college roommate, Michael Brown, to be his succesor. Despite Brown also having no relevant experience (and not much experience relevant to anything), Bush made the appointment. This, it is important to note, was after 9/11. The federal response unquestionably suffered from having an unqualified incompetent in the job, but Bush has still learned no lessons, as he is currently trying to appoint yet another unqualified crony to to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that is charged with hunting down money launderers, sanctions busters and human traffickers and that is the sole enforcer of U.S. immigration laws. Furthermore, instead of chosing a qualified, experienced leader of big operations to head up the rebuilding of Louisiana and Mississippi, he has appointed none other than Karl Rove. He is clearly not taking the releif effort seriously as anything other than a political image problem. Equally disturbing, Bush took the time, during the height of the hurricane disaster, to make a second recess appointment, picking Alice Fisher to head the Justice Dept.'s criminal division, circumventing accusations involving torture in Guatanamo.

In his speach last Thursday, Bush laid out a plan to help rebuild the region. What he didn't explain is how it would be payed for: not by rolling back the massive, wartime taxcuts for the wealthy made earlier in his presidency, not even by not going ahead with killing the estate tax, but by cutting spending. He hasn't laid out exactly what spending will be cut, but there's no reason to believe it would be anything other than the programs that help the poor. And Bush unquestionably knew he was not doing the right thing, because he consciously left it out of the speach, mentioning it only in a press release late Friday (when nobody is supposed to be paying attention). Bush plans, no doubt, to make this the same kind of money-making scheme for his rich benefactors and cronies as the Iraq reconstruction has been, with plenty of no-bid contracts for corporations like Halliburton. He has already signed a waiver allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage. But forget about modifying the bankruptcy bill to exempt Katrina victims! It is the poor of our country, once again, who will be expected to make sacrifices.

Congressional Democrats asked for an independent investigation. Republican leadership blocked it, instead prefering to let the White House investigate itself. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is searching for evidence that they could blame the levees failing on enviromental groups, and Republican congressmen are searching for Katrina casualties that could serve as arguments for repealing the estate tax. And speaking of poor priorities, the Justice Dept. has announced that it will be making prosecutions of pornography a top priority.

Certainly there are many Americans who back Bush's agenda of social conservatism and tax cuts. But there is also a huge block of voters who do not agree with this agenda, yet who held their nose and voted for Bush because they believed he would make their security a top priority, and would be a more efficient manager of homeland security than the Democrats. Bush has proven himself to be a complete failure in this department.

The case is clear. The Demcoratic leadership needs to stand up and make this case. And if they fail to do so, we, the voters, need to jettison them as quickly as possible. Come the primaries in 06, I won't hesitate to vote against Diane Feinstein or Barbara Boxer, if they can't show me some performance right now.


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