From Bill Shein:
The Issue of “Blame”
I’d like to respond to the many emails I’ve received that (a) suggest my recent column and blog postings are an effort to score “political points”; (b) that we must “support our president” in this time of crisis; (c) that everything is the fault of the mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana; (d) that the massive death toll of poor and black people in New Orleans is a result of the “failed welfare state” (actually, I’ll let the absurdity of that argument crush it without my help); (e) that this is no time for satire critical of the government; (f) etc.
First, the irony of knee-jerk Bush apologists demanding the mayor and governor be excoriated NOW — while they work on the ground on relief efforts — while the president and his slow and incompetent response be “supported” is quite phenomenal. The notion that the president should be immune from comment and criticism is a byproduct of the years-long effort, as the horror and tragedy of the Iraq War continues, to challenge the “patriotism” (a topic for another time) of many Americans while shutting down debate.
If you want to defend the actions of your favorite politicians, fine. Go ahead. Anyone who’s read my work, including years of satirical commentary on President Clinton, knows that for me, this is not about politics or partisanship or parties. I don’t care if the president is George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Howdy Freaking Doody (Is he available? Hmmm). I make no apologies for my progressive — quite progressive — point of view on many issues, one that runs contrary on many issues to the opinions of both mainstream Democrats and Republicans. And I don’t pull punches because of the party affiliation of a public official.
When a massive, multi-state catastrophe unfolds, I want my federal government to bring all its resources and (cough, cough!) expertise to bear as rapidly as possible. If you read the governor’s letter to the president ON AUGUST 27 calling for federal help, which includes reference to the state of emergency declared ON AUGUST 26, you’ll see language that makes plain that response to the hurricane would be beyond the capabilities and resources of state and local government. (And puts to rest this oft-repeated lie — which was spun out of the White House on Satur! day night — that local officials failed to cross some t’s and dot some i’s, and that led to the slow response of the feds.)
Again, that’s the whole point of the federal government. If states, or cities, or each of us could do everything on our own, we wouldn’t need it. In this case, we did, in a big way. And the federal government, led by this president and his sub-standard appointees, failed us. Not a Republican president or Republican appointees, but rather, simply the President of the United States of America and the United States government.
If the mayor and governor and other local officials made mistakes, which they surely did, by all means we will take them to task and demand accountability. But to suggest the same is not required for presidential leadership in a national disaster makes a mockery of democracy and reveals the raw, ugly partisanship of the “support the president no matter what” crowd for all to see.
Like so many other Americans, I simply can’t wrap my mind or heart around the level of human suffering. I can’t walk down my road without imagining where a 20-foot waterline would fall on the homes of my friends and neighbors. I feel strange filling a glass with clean water from my tap. I get instantly sad while walking my dogs and remembering all of the people and children forced to leave their pets behind (in one emotionally crushing story reported by AP and CNN.com, a police officer pulled a dog away from a child who was being evacuated. The child wailed, screaming the dog’s name over and over! until he vomited). I feel helpless and am powerfully aware of the inadequacy of words.
As I have for years, I’m glad to receive emails and do my best to respond thoughtfully to them all. I want to read and hear other opinions. But I make no apologies for my anger and outrage, and you can be damn sure I will continue to express it.