Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Mystery?

The gross incompetence of the Bush administration at governing has been obvious for five years now, from what Al Franken calls "Operation Ignore" in the months leading up to Sept. 11 2001, to the Iraq operation so utterly, grotesquely bungled that it's hard to believe they didn't screw it up on purpose, out of some dark conspiratorial motive. The surging flood of red ink engulfing the Treasury, stagnating workers' wages, multiplying health care costs and armies of uninsured people, hollowed out public health infrastructure -- on and on it goes.

But even though they can't govern competently -- or more accurately, don't want to, because their only reason for wanting power is to steal from the poor and give to the rich -- we have been profoundly impressed by their political skills. While their electoral successes were built on a foundation of ruthlessness and dishonesty, their success at manipulating the corporate media and duping a substantial part of the population (even if they had to steal the last 2 or 3 percent of votes) is undeniable.

Now though, they seem as incompetent at politics as they are at management and policy. It turns out that not only did the Director of the National Hurricane Center brief Chertoff and Brown, he personally briefed the "president" about the likely destruction of New Orleans, on Sunday. Surely Karl Rove should have been licking his lips in anticipation of the opportunity to portray the Idiot in Chief as bold, decisive, in charge and resolute. Nature had handed him the chance for the political resurrection of the failed War President! Fly him back to Washington, or even to Baton Rouge, to pretend to take personal charge of the situation. Ostentatiously mobilize the Army, the Navy, and the Coast Guard. Have him ready to go, to stand on a pile of rubble on Tuesday morning with a bullhorn, vowing to rescue and rebuild before a staged backdrop of carefully cast, costumed and choreographed rescue workers.

What do we get? Photo ops of the resolute leader cutting birthday cake and pretending to play the guitar while thousands of citizens drowned, the Vice President apparently absent from the planet (I thought he might have died, and they didn't want to announce it just yet), the Secretary of State boogalooing down Broadway in her brand new thousand dollar shoes, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of FEMA knowing less about what was happening in New Orleans than 200 million couch potatoes who tuned in the nightly news, and being permitted to appear on national television to prove it.

Yes, they knew exactly what was going to happen. They had a desperately needed political opportunity handed to them. And they turned it into a political disaster. Why? What does it mean?

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