Thursday, September 01, 2005

Appalling commentary by Howard Fineman

In the midst of tragedy and devastation, isn't it nice to know that some people can only see the crass political angle? Hundreds or thousands of people have been killed because of Hurricane Katrina and hundreds of thousands are now homeless, but Howard Fineman can only focus on "a political storm brewing" in his commentary War on the Mississippi.
For years the Pentagon’s standing readiness plans required the country to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously. But no one anticipated what we face now: a war in Mesopotamia and another along the Mississippi.
In his rush to view everything through anti-Bush lens, Fineman equates the natural disaster in the Gulf region to a war which we are not prepared to handle because of the war in Iraq.
And now: the Storm and the Flood, which have inundated the Gulf Coast in deadly water. This is, literally, an invasion of the homeland, and it will require a warlike response from a nation and a military already stretched thin.
In what conceivable way is this literally an invasion of the homeland? (Yet another writer who doesn't seem to understand what the word "literal" means.) There are no foreign nationals attacking American citizens or bombs going off. Civil order has broken down in many of the ravaged areas. While I find the actions of looters who are taking advantage of the situation despicable, equating the situation to an invasion shows a serious lack of perspective and judgment, even as a rhetorical device.
National Guard officials insist that they have enough men and women on hand to do the job, but common sense tells you that they could use the others stationed abroad. The U.S. Navy is dispatching supply ships to the region, but battling the waters that cover the region will require many more resources.
From the accounts that I have read there remain thousands of National Guardsmen in the region who not yet been mobilized (information from a day or two ago, may be old). There are certainly many more in other parts of the country that have not been activated. This indicates that we do have the resources to deal with this situation regardless of the deployment of troops to the Middle East. Not to mention the fact that the majority of troops in Iraq are not Guardsmen. Does anyone think that the First Marines should be brought back to aid in New Orleans? Would Fineman really call for their deployment if they were not overseas?
As is typical, some people are never willing to trust the opinions of the professionals, at least not when they are military.
Andy Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans. Will George Bush? His poll numbers already at near-record low levels, he will have to oversee the rescue of the gulf in the midst of a changing climate in Washington. The public’s sense of where America is headed—the “right direction/wrong track” numbers—are dismal. Gas prices are high and unsettling. Congressional Democrats, reluctant since 9/11 to take on a “war president,” finally have decided to do so. And Republicans, knowing that they’ll be facing the voters a year from now, are beginning to seek ways to distance themselves from him.

This president doesn’t need Karl Rove to explain the political importance of disaster relief. It’s something Bush responds to naturally, and he knows the risks of seeming to be an insensitive, to-the-manner-born president. When hurricanes hit Florida before the last election, he and his brother, Jeb, were on the case, Big Time. Now three Red States are hit, hard, and the challenge is likely to be much greater.
Now the meat of the column. Fineman shows that his primary concern in assessing the situation is how the disaster might hurt Bush. Thousands dead? A city ravaged? It's all good as long as the president's poll numbers get worse. Red states took the damage? Even better! The satisfaction that seems to come through his writing is sickening.
And just after Labor Day, hearings will start in the Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. Expect the Democrats to drop their caution and go after him with all they’ve got. They’re coming to the conclusion that they have nothing to lose, and they are being pushed in that combative direction by a grass-roots base furious at the congressional party for not having taken a tougher line against the president months if not years ago.
Democrats are being pushed by a grass roots and media base that is so maddened by their hatred of this president that they can't see anything beyond the possibility of wounding or thwarting Bush. If the Democrats follow Fineman's lead and attempt to politicize this tragedy, turn it into nothing more than an opportunity to bash the administration, then they will certainly have plenty to lose. The Democrats are the minority party in Washington now. This path leads to a political wasteland.
But now they sense blood in the rising water.
Appalling. Howard, there is real blood in the water. That's much more important right now than politics.

Update: Peggy Noonan on makes the same comparison between the situation and a war:
Last week I said that this is the wrong time in hostory to move forward with the wholsesale closings of military bases thourought the U.S. Terrorism was on my mind, but the incredible tragedy on the Gulf Coast is giving us a new gulf war, one in which we must help an entire region get back on its feet after being leveled by an ancient foe, the hurricane, and what is happening there right now in New Orleans and Mississippi seems tragically illustrative of the fact that local military presence can be crucial in times of grave national emergency.
Another bad comparison and I disagree with using this disaster to push against base closings. At least Ms. Noonan's tone is more respectful and this is merely a small part of her column which is mostly focused appropriately on the situation.

No comments: