It Really Is About Incompetence
“People are getting the help they need”
--FEMA head Michael Brown, with a straight face, telling Katie Couric this morning to ignore what everyone else sees in New Orleans.
Looking like a man who knows he is getting blamed for a catastrophe in a red state, Mr. Bush said today that the “results are not acceptable” in describing a disaster response to date that is increasingly pathetic, and for which his administration can't even get its story straight.
Did I mention that Mr. Bush is responsible for that response? Did I mention that it was Mr. Bush who first ran his close political fixer Joe Albaugh through FEMA, and has now placed a horse attorney in FEMA, both of whom seemingly know less about disaster planning and relief efforts than the White House janitorial staff? So it will strike voters as being detached from reality when Bush says the response hasn’t been good enough, especially when it is Mr. Bush who himself is responsible for that "not acceptable" response, and Mr. Brown says that the lack of security on the ground five days later and the resulting lawlessness wasn’t anticipated by FEMA. In truth, as Marie, Mary, and Pessimist have noted below, there is another reason why Bush is very anxious about Katrina, and it has to do with his administration's incompetence, and how that incompetence could unravel the public's heretofore steadfast perception on another key issue.
What is behind Mr. Bush’s concerns may be the possibility that voters will start asking how well has Bush really protected us from another terror attack if his government is so unprepared for a natural disaster that prior administrations have handled much better than this? Voters will start reconsidering their unqualified support for Bush’s handling of terrorism because of newfound concerns over his competence in running a government. Those concerns will be coupled with a media that seems to be finally connecting the dots to Bush’s own actions in cutting the Corps of Engineers budget requests year in and year out for exactly the projects that could have minimized the damage. This stew of bad developments for Bush will merge with an inflationary jolt to the economy to produce what may be an ugly environment for the GOP in 2006.
And once voters start thinking that the Bush team is unable to deal with a natural disaster for which there was ample warning, and for which other administrations have handled better, those same voters will start wondering exactly how well Bush is protecting us from terrorism. Democratic efforts to frame this administration as incompetent along the lines of Krugman's argument this morning would be lethal to the GOP in 2006.