The president of Jefferson Parish on Meet the Press
The guy who runs this building I’m in. Emergency management. He’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said. Are you coming. Son? Is somebody coming? And he said yeah. Mama. Somebody’s coming to get you.. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. And she drowned Friday night. Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The Secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For god’s sakes, just shut up and send us somebody.
Mary Landrieu on Bush’s tour visit.
But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast — black and white, rich and poor, young and old — deserve far better from their national government.
I’ve had difficulty in writing about what has been happening the last several days because I can’t find the words. I’m too angry. I was at Margaret Levi’s presidential address to the American Political Science Association on Thursday. She began by talking about what was happening on the Gulf coast and in Iraq, and went on to speak about how the state has obligations that go beyond the protection of property rights and the rule of law. It’s supposed to protect its citizens’ basic rights and welfare, and to do its best to protect them from the vagaries of fortune. This is obvious stuff, but it helps clarify what has happened and is happening. The US state, under George W. Bush has failed in this most basic of responsibilities. It has failed to protect its people, to an extent which amounts to criminal negligence. It has shown an indifference verging on contempt for its weakest and most vulnerable citizens. It has systematically gutted the government in pursuit of crony capitalism and jobs for its friends even when they’re hopelessly unqualified. It seems more interested in political spin and damage control than in facing up to what has happened, and is continuing to happen.
What we’ve seen over the last several days is evidence of how fundamentally American politics have been corrupted (others, including some Democratic officials, are participants in this corruption too and share the blame). In a parliamentary democracy, George W. Bush would almost certainly either have resigned by now or be on the point of resigning. Bush and his friends and supporters tell us that they’re conservatives. Conservatism, if it has any moral content at all, is supposed to be a political philosophy of values, of taking responsibility for one’s actions and inactions. Not press conference spin, blame shifting and Potemkin relief efforts. This is depravity, pure and simple.
(Update: some changes to wording).