Thursday, September 15, 2005

An Interesting Choice of Priorities

I, like many liberals, chuckled at the notion of the Resident investigating what went wrong in the delayed and disasterous response of the federal government to Hurricane Katrina. Here was a man who couldn't even look up at the cameras while reading his canned speech when he came to the part about taking responsibility for the deadly fiasco. I have absolutely no faith in any promise this man makes, especially one that might cause him to admit even more need to 'take responsibility.' I thought an independent commission, like the 9/11 commission was a pretty good idea, but at this point, it doesn't look like the administration is about to have anything to do with that.

That's why it came as no surprise that Congress isn't having any of it either. Here's what the Washington Post had to say about that:

The Senate voted along party lines yesterday to reject creation of an independent panel to investigate the government's fumbling response to Hurricane Katrina.

Instead, the Republicans intend to appoint a "bipartisan" committee Congressional committee in which the Republicans (who control both Houses) will have the majority of members. That's in interesting definition of "bipartisan," isn't it?

What is interesting to me is just what great ideas the Republicans have in terms of what needs to be fixed. It is clear just what they consider to be important.

Senior Republicans proposed such critical fixes as streamlining how the president can order the U.S. military to enforce law and order ...

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) wrote Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last night urging a legal review of the use of active-duty troops in domestic emergencies and announced his intent to rename a key martial law statute called the Insurrection Act.

Warner said renaming the law -- used by presidents to fight the Civil War and to integrate schools in Arkansas and Alabama -- would ease political barriers to the presidential exercise of such authority. White House aides cited such concerns in deciding not to federalize state National Guard units to do police work after the storm hit.

"The President should not have to worry about misperceptions by the public based upon outdated wording that does not accurately describe what the armed forces may be doing in a particular emergency," Warner wrote.

Military officials resist federalizing troops because of concerns that the action could appear as an occupying force within U.S. borders. Soldiers, Marines and sailors who were sent to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina were prevented from taking over police functions.
[Emphasis added]

Two things are clear. The Republicans, like their Dear Leader, have no intention of investigating the effect of budget cuts to the very programs that might have mitigated much of the damage that struck New Orleans (such as cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers and various programs within FEMA). Instead, they want to concentrate on the looting by desperate victims and the breakdown of 'civil' society in the face of hopelessness by the poor who were left behind simply because they could not afford to evacuate. Law and Order.

As a corollary to the first, Republicans seem to think that by invoking the might of a military (a military close to being broken by Bush's Folly in Iraq)right from the start, bad things would not have happened in the wake of the natural disaster. Martial law in our cities, indeed, an occupying force: that's the answer.

The response from the Republicans would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous to our democracy.

Howard Dean: you and Barbara Boxer and Louise Slaughter and the other handful of Democrats unafraid to speak out on this shameful approach need to start screaming at your colleagues to get their act together and NOW.


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