Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Blame Game: Inning Two

One of the maladministration's new memes in its cya action is "Blame Game." Even the President is using it whenever anyone dares to question the tragic non-response of the federal government to Katrina. To counter said "Blame Game" playing, the President has come up with a plan. He is going to investigate. The New York Times'response to this plan was unusually strong:

No administration could credibly investigate such an immense failure on its own watch. And we have learned through bitter experience - the Abu Ghraib nightmare is just one example - that when this administration begins an internal investigation, it means a whitewash in which no one important is held accountable and no real change occurs.

Mr. Bush signaled yesterday that we are in for more of the same when he sneered and said, "One of the things that people want us to do here is to play a blame game." This is not a game. It is critical to know what "things went wrong," as Mr. Bush put it. But we also need to know which officials failed - not to humiliate them, but to replace them with competent people.

It's obvious, for instance, that Michael Brown has met the expectations of those who warned that he would be a terrible director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is no time to be engaging in a wholesale change of leadership, but in Mr. Brown's case there seems to be precious little leadership to lose. He should be replaced with someone who can do the huge job that remains to be done.

But the questions go way beyond Mr. Brown - starting with why federal officials ignored predictions of a disastrous flood in New Orleans - and the answers can come only from an independent commission.

While setting up a non-partisan independent commission to do the investigation is probably the only way the nation will get a true picture of what went so very wrong, it will take time, as the 9/11 commission showed. This administration's record on willingness to release information, especially information that might be damaging to it, is exceptionally poor. Still, the very fact that of such stonewalling will speak volumes and will allow the nation to make the negative inferences such behavior deserves. Some Democrats have already called for the creation of such a commission, and one hopes the President can be pressured into acting on that call.

There is no doubt that mistakes were made at all levels of government during the tragedy, but the Times' editorialist points out something that should always be foremost in any discussion of what went wrong:

...disasters like this are not a city or a state issue. They concern the entire nation and demand a national response - certainly a better one than the White House comments that "tremendous progress" had been made in Louisiana. We're used to that dismissive formula when questions are raised about Iraq. Americans deserve better about a disaster of this magnitude in their own country.

Exactly. To quote a moron, "Bring it on!"


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