Definition of Incompetence

A family friend sent this to me.  I don’t know who the writer is.
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2005 10:52 AM

A letter to my family—

I don’t know whether you saw President Bush’s smirking speech last evening, which today’s Times calls “one of the worst speeches of his life,” or saw his pathetic interview this morning on Good Morning America, in which he praised the comprehensive federal response to the
on-going disaster in New Orleans.  Both appearances make it painfully clear that the worst president in American history and his thoroughly incompetent administration continue to lead our sad country from one disaster to another.

The president used his air time yesterday and today to lie, there is no softer word appropriate, to the American people about the catastrophe in New Orleans and to dissemble about federal efforts to assist those in need.  When the president says, as he said to Diane Sawyer this morning, that no one could have predicted this, he is only demonstrating to a
watching world that he has no idea, NO IDEA, of what he is talking about. It was predicted by experts on every cable channel starting last Friday when Katrina set course for New Orleans as a Category 5 hurricane. 

Frankly, it’s a pretty stupid lie, much easier to expose than a lie about weapons of mass destruction.  In this case, most of the country had seen people predicting this disaster, so the president just seems out of touch.  What was worse last evening, however, was the giddy,
almost joyful, speech the president gave about how much the federal government was doing to solve the crisis.  Does he really not watch TV? Does his staff mislead him that much?  His casual, careless style was beyond inappropriate.  It was obscene. 

While claiming that no one could have predicted the disaster, he ignored the fact that his own staff at FEMA warned him in 2001 that the flooding of New Orleans was one of the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing the nation. (A terrorist attack on New York was one of the other three.) Perhaps he was on vacation and didn’t read their report. 

But surely he noticed when the former Republican Congressman who headed the Army Corps of Engineers protested the Bush cuts in the budget for reinforcing the levees.  The president should remember—he fired him.

And what were the cuts that led to the protest?  Worth reviewing, perhaps?  President Bush cut federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana from nearly $70 million in 2001 to less than $40 million this year.  He cut an Army Corps of Engineers request for $27 million for hurricane protection for Lake Pontchartrain to less than $6 million.  As a result, for the first time in more than 37 years, work had to stop on strengthening the very levee that broke this week. Actions have consequences.  In this case, the consequences are the destruction of a city, the loss of American lives and the incomprehensible image being presented to the world of an American government that appears to be led by a chief executive of such incompetence that you wouldn’t let him run a laundramat yet alone a government.

It gets worse.  The president cut completely the funding for research on flooding, and he cut all funding for local and state authorities in Louisiana to do a trial run of a disaster scenario.  Cutting taxes for the wealthiest people in America and privatizing essential services were
more important than preparing for a disaster that every expert was predicting. 

What exactly do these Republican political operatives Bush has appointed to jobs throughout the federal government do all day?  They certainly don’t do disaster planning.  How is it possible that four years after 9-11 the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have plans in place to evacuate every major metropolitan area in the country?  After spending billions of dollars on homeland security, did no one think that it might be necessary to evacuate large numbers of people after a disaster strikes?  Why weren’t tents, beds, trucks, boats being kept at the ready for such an emergency?  Why were citizens urged to evacuate New Orleans,
but given no assistance if they were too sick, old, or immobile?  Why were no provisions made for those without cars?  If there are no buses in New Orleans, why wasn’t FEMA deploying them from surrounding states? Why wasn’t the guard or the army directed to assist in the pre-hurricane evacuation? 

Why, after all we know about the failure of communications on 9-11, are the New Orleans police and fire department unable to communicate?  I know the answer to that.  I’ll tell you
why.  Because the Bush administration has opposed every effort to designate a band on the
communications spectrum for public safety purposes.  If you are not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

In keeping with his policy of promoting incompetent people, Bush appointed GOP lawyer Michael Brown to head FEMA, despite his complete lack of experience in management or disaster relief.  Prior to joining FEMA, Brown’s only emergency management experience was as an assistant city manager.  So why should we be surprised that FEMA is incapable of
getting water to people who have been waiting for it for four days? This morning, the Navy announced that a medical ship would be leaving Baltimore for New Orleans tomorrow!  Why wasn’t it sent last weekend? What are all of the Louisiana National Guard’s amphibious vehicles doing in Iraq?  How much use is an amphibious vehicle in the desert?

I want to be clear about this.  George Bush is not responsible for the hurricane.  But his budget priorities, appointment of political hacks to jobs that require trained and experienced administrators, and his care-free attitude in the face of a monumental crisis has created a
tragedy beyond human comprehension.  Why weren’t federal troops sent to help in the first hours after the levees broke?  Why aren’t they there today?  Why weren’t ships pre-deployed in the area with pumps?  Why were no hospital ships pre-deployed? 

A friend of mine who lives in New Orleans called me this morning from Baton Rouge.  His nephew, a fireman in New Orleans, told him last night that they are tying dead bodies to trees so that they can be collected at some point in the future.  He saw a baby die outside the Superdome last night. There are people waiting in the wet streets of New Orleans who haven’t had a drink of water since Monday.  SINCE MONDAY.  Think about that.  Why aren’t Air Force planes dropping water bottles and sandwiches?  How about some rafts for the thousands of people wading through filthy water?  Has any president sat by so cavalierly while so many Americans have suffered?  And then have the nerve to tell us, as George Bush did last night, that this ordeal will make us stronger?  Not since Herbert Hoover. 

Why weren’t the national guards of all the surrounding states federalized and deployed to New Orleans and Biloxi within hours of the hurricane’s passing?  Why wasn’t an aircraft carrier sent to the Gulf of Mexico for airlifting and housing refugees?  Why haven’t commercial
cruise ships been commandeered as emergency housing?  Why are troops only being mobilized today, days after the disaster was apparent to anyone with a television set?

This isn’t second-guessing.  All of these suggestions were part of a plan developed while I worked at the Justice Department a decade ago, a plan that clearly was not implemented by the Republican officials who now have the jobs.

Actions have consequences.  Our vacation-hungry president’s press secretary said this morning that this isn’t a time for pointing fingers. Why not?  As people die and one of the world’s great city lies in ruins, when will it be time before our country realizes that this reckless and arrogant dry drunk in the Oval Office has a lot to answer for?  He’s tanned and rested after clearing brush for a month.  But now he’s on TV calling this disaster “a temporary disruption.” That’s what one prays his presidency will be, a temporary disruption in our country’s proud history. 

I don’t think I’ve been this saddened and angry since he made a mockery of our constitution and stole the White House.  Please feel free to share this with anyone you wish.

Posted by Nuttshell on 09/11 at 05:10 PM in Politics

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