I'm sorry. I know we're supposed to be observing an accountability free moment for the president. But there are just too many examples out there of the ways in which his policies have contributed to and accentuated this crisis: systematic cuts in levee and pump construction around New Orleans (second article here), phasing out FEMA and the apparently the whole concept of national coordination of the response to natural disasters. That's a great idea, isn't it? Similar failings are discussed by Bruce W. Jentleson and Juliette Kayyem at TPMCafe. And, of course, example after example of cronies running critical agencies. Anyone want to give a buzz to Joe Allbaugh over at New Bridge Strategies?
The scene of any natural disaster, especially one of such grave magnitude, will invariably be chaotic. Much won't go according to plan. But a lot of people seem to have been caught unprepared in this mess, a lot of preparedness agencies appear to have missed a few beats in getting on top of it.
Josh is right I believe. More importantly, Josh's critique cuts across partisan lines in my opinion. Yes Bush and his administration have much to answer for. But what of the government of the State of Louisiana? The government of the City of New Orleans? I for one believe all have to answer for this. But not now. Maybe next week. But not today. For the reasons described above.
Interestingly, Matt Yglesias wrote a rather strange post that, I think unintentionally, illustrates a related point about Iraq. I'll discuss it on the flip.
The good news for Democrats is that by 57-42 people disapprove of Bush's handling of the war, and by 53-46 people say the war wasn't worth it. The bad news, however, is this:
By a 51 percent to 38 percent ratio, the public said the United States is winning the war, despite mounting casualties and insurgent attacks. A majority (54 percent) continued to say the United States should keep military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there; 44 percent said U.S. forces should be withdrawn. Six in 10 opposed announcing a timetable for withdrawal.
. . . [C]ontrary to some loose talk I've heard from fellow anti-war liberals, the evidence seems to suggest that the anti-war view remains a minority one on forward-looking issues. The challenge for Pottery Barn Democrats, meanwhile, is not only the mismatch between their views and those of most Democrats, but the need to offer an alternative vision for "handling" the war that's actually credible and compelling. For what it's worth, I'd very much like to support that position, but the ideas I've seen on the table -- with all due respect to our current Table for One guest and others -- don't seem very credible to me. It's natural that the population would like to choose hope over despair, notwithstanding concerns about the current situation, but even as a political stance "do the war but do it better" doesn't work very well in the absence of a sound policy vision.
I think Yglesias completely misunderstands the political ramifications of the poll results. Of course Americans want to believe they are winning. Of course they want the U.S. to "win the war." But in the face of this obvious strong pull, 44% TODAY want withdrawal! That is amazing. In the face of NO opposition by the Democrats, a pliant Media, and the strong "rally round the flag" urge of the American People during any war time, the number who support withdrawal is already nearly half of the population. Where will that number be next July? What Matt misses in this part of his analysis seems simple to me - the election is NEXT year. Not this year. Next year. A little forward looking political thinking is in order.
In a certain sense, the process by which advocating withdrawal becomes the clear majority opinion, one politicians will be able to express without fear of political blowback, is accelerating rapidly. To me that is the noteworthy political news from the WaPo poll cited by Yglesias, not the lesson he takes. Remember, the election is next year.
The other mistake Yglesias makes is his critique of Democratic strategy alternatives for Iraq. He says he doesn't find them compelling. Well guess what? No sane person would. But it doesn't matter - Democrats have no say over Iraq policy. Democratic alternatives for Iraq are simply political statements, they can be nothing else until 2007. Now, the strategies that might be worth discussing in a serious way are related to what we do in the Middle East AFTER the U.S. leaves Iraq. How do we manage the Debacle and ITS Aftermath? This exercise, however, CAN be dangerous politically right now. But my hope is that some smart Democrats are considering that. Because that will be the REAL question for next year and beyond. How can we manage the incalculable damage done by Bush and his Iraq Debacle if and when Democrats DO get power. On policy, that is the only pertinent question now. The rest is politics.