If it weren’t so pathetic, it would be amusing. Bush loyalists will go to any length to blame anyone but George and the Republicans for anything that goes wrong in the government. The ironies abound. The same crowd that loves to preach "accountability" is scandalized by "finger pointing" whenever the Bush administration steps into what dear old Dad used to call "deep doodoo." Clearly, the buck doesn’t stop at the president’s desk anymore. This president spends the bucks too fast — faster than any president in history. Yet "conservatives" love him.
It must take a lot of faith to still believe that the prescription for curing our nation’s ills is to vote Republican. The party of Lincoln, Blinkin’ and Nod has held the White House for 24 of the last 36 years. It has controlled the Senate for most of the past 20 years, has held the House since Newtsie’s little "revolution" (oh, those Republican revolutionaries!) in 1994. All but two of the members of the current Supreme Court are Republican appointees. So the conservatives must be winning, right? I mean they must be busy rolling back "big government" programs till the federal government is about the size it was when Mr. Coolidge left office. They must be restoring a sound dollar, reigning in excess spending, eliminating "waste and fraud" and just generally giving us the kind of frugal, sensible government that Grandma knew, right?
Well, not exactly. Budgets are in the trillions, deficits in the hundreds of billions, the nation’s wealth and a considerable amount of its young blood is being squandered on a war we started by invading a country that didn’t attack us, in search of weapons of mass destruction that appear not to have been there. And the closest we have come to accountability is the Defense Secretary’s observation that "Stuff happens." Maybe this is the Forrest Gump administration.
Let us be blunt: There is not a shred of credibility left to the Grand Ol’ Party’s crusade against "big government." The "era of big government" has never been over, despite that white flag run up by Bill Clinton to the thunderous ovation from a Republican Congress, followed by a cover of the Weekly Standard, exulting: "We Win!" The GOP is surely the party of Pyrrhic victories.
Bush is everywhere stumbling and bungling, messing up everything from the little red schoolhouse to the "cakewalk" in Iraq. Then along comes a hurricane that hits Americans right where they live and you figure it’s George’s turn to shine again. Give him a bullhorn, a pile o’ rubble and a police officer or firefighter to hug and ol Dubya be back in bidness in no time, defendin’ the homeland, makin’ America strong. You betcha! And there’s no way a hurricane can be his fault. ‘Cause a hurricane’s an act o’ God, right? And we all know God is on George’s side, when Dick Cheney’s not available.
Somehow, it didn’t turn out that way. Stuff happened. And a lot of stuff that should have happened didn’t. Even some of the nation’s most stalwart Republican newspapers, from the Dallas Morning News to the New Hampshire Union Leader started faulting Bush for the vacuum of leadership at the federal level. But not the Bush apologists. Not those loyal Sons o’ the Shrub. No, they’ve had to come up with alternative explanations that turn out to be alternative realities.
One explanation is that the seeds of the disaster in New Orleans were sown by Democratic administrations, from FDR to LBJ. Yeah, it’s those guys with initial-names. They got the people, especially poor people, hooked on the welfare state, so that instead of swimming for themselves or paddling their own canoes, they sat on their big backsides waiting for government help that didn’t come or came too late or came ineffectively. That’s why they didn’t pull together and pull themselves through the crisis. Interestingly, one writer who made that argument cited New Yorkers on and after 9-11 as an example of how people used to organize themselves and pull themselves through. So I guess the debilitating effects of the welfare state have advanced considerably in the last four years — four years of a Republican administration and a Republican Congress.
Besides, knocking the welfare state doesn’t help Bush much. Not when he’s out on the stump promoting the costliest expansion of the welfare state since Medicare itself, the prescription drug benefit. Heck, George has even threatened to do what he’s never done to an appropriations bill. He’s said he’ll take up his pen and veto any curtailment of benefits under his prescription drug plan. So go ahead, Congress, make his day. You just try telling old guys they can’t have the federal government pay for their Viagra, and George W. Bush will draw his veto pen and blast your bill to boot hill. Read his lips: no cut benefits.
Truly, the best argument for getting Bush off the hook is the one his loyal followers won’t touch. It’s simply that George really isn’t in charge of anything. He’s just the president. Barely a week after Bush hailed "Brownie" for doing "a heck of a job," the Homeland Security czar pulled FEMA director Michael Brown out of New Orleans and sent him back to his office in Washington, where he will likely do less harm. In his place, a vice-admiral of the Coast Guard is now in charge of flood relief in the "other" (meaning other than the White House) disaster zone. (Well, at least the guy knows water, right?)
Does that suggest that Bush is in charge of things and is running the government? When the president testified before the 911 Commission, he insisted on having the vice president at his side to answer the tough questions. Do we really know who’s in charge?
"Well let’s see now, we have Who on first, What’s on second, Idunno’s on third…"
It will likely be some time before we’ve seen the last of the fallout from Hurricane Katrina. It will likely not be in the lifetime of this administration. When all is said and done, big government will be bigger, with more offices than ever. Already, there is talk of a "hurricane czar" — a hurricane czar, for God’s sake! And if there’s going to be a hurricane czar, then surely there must be a flood czar and an earthquake czar and a cyclone czar, a tornado czar. Forget big government, we can’t even end the era of czars in the 21st Century.
The federal government has already committed $62 billion in disaster relief for Katrina-stricken areas and that’s probably just the beginning. Many are predicting the final cost will be $300 billion or more, rivaling the cost of Bush War II (in Afghanistan and Iraq) over the past four years. Normally that kind of spending would blow a hole in the federal budget but the budget is now almost entirely holes, with a deficit already in the hundreds of billions. But I have a feeling the Republicans are about to get religion again about federal deficits. I think Katrina has given them all the cover they need for enacting a whopping tax increase. Yes, I do believe u2018Dubya,’ Son of the New World Order, will sign into law a record-setting tax increase, just like ol’ Poppy done.
Will that reality intrude upon the wishful thinking of the Republican base? Will they continue to believe that theirs is the party of limited government, low taxes, less spending and all the rest? Or will they finally say to the barons of the Grand Ol’ Party what Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucy?
"The yig is up!"
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.