If Osama Had Blown Up the Levees Would the Response Have Been the Same?

Rove would have made sure the poor people were bussed out of downtown right away — not out of compassion but because their presence would have been politically inexpedient with cameras around.

As Atrios has noted: “Four years of hearing that ‘9/11 changed everything’ as a justification for literally everything, we know now these incompetent fuckers couldn’t run a lemonade stand let alone defend the country or deal with a disaster.”

This begs a question: Would our government have deployed itself differently this week if terrorists had blown up the levees in New Orleans last Monday?

Staging such an attack would certainly have been possible. It was common knowledge that the levees were vulnerable — despite Mr. Bush’s statement otherwise — and the logistics of exploding Oklahoma City style truck bombs next to the berms and canals would seem to be easier than highjacking jetliners and flying them into buildings.

If Osama had blown up the levees, first off, Bush’s vacation would have ended abruptly on Monday, and he would have flown into the disaster scene right away to take charge. (None of the flitting around the country like a scaredy-pants school boy like he did on 9/11.) In Bushspeak, of course, “taking charge” means engaging in photo-ops and reciting Rovian speeches filled with bellicose resolve and determination.

Even before Mr. Bush was done in New Orleans on Monday, every department of the federal government would have been mobilized and resources would have poured in.

And then Bush would have announced an invasion of either Iran or Syria — or both.

Why the difference? Why was the government’s response so inadequate and sluggish? The answer is politics, of course.

Karl Rove looked at the situation on Monday and didn’t see much there that would be of any use to the president. Further, he figured that if the situation went haywire, it would make the Democrats in Louisiana — Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Sen. Mary Landrieu and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin — look weak and disorganized.

What the White House political arm miscalculated was the displacement the disaster would cause on New Orleans’ poorest citizens — and the effect that the resulting news images of human suffering would have on normal Americans.

Are we suggesting that the government deliberately dragged its feet? No. But we do know the government took days to haul itself off its fat vacationing ass and hustle into action. And we can surmise that the lack of motivation to move quickly trickled down from the top.

If there had been a terrorist attack, the full force of his office would have quickly been brought to bear on the crisis. For example, Rove would have made sure the poor people were bussed out of downtown right away — not out of compassion but because their presence would have been politically inexpedient with cameras around.

Job One for this White House is politics — and what they do best is spin, smearing their enemies and photo ops. But effective governance requires competence. And, as Atrios suggested, these guys have exhbited nothing but operational incompetence since they took office.

It’s all politics all the time with George Bush. Playing hardball 24/7 has gotten him far. But events on the ground sometimes force leaders to govern without the cover of politics. When that happens, stage management and smear tactics are simply not enough.

2 Comments

  • Linda Duscoe
    September 3, 2005 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    Your article is on target. What Rove and Bush neglected to realize is the real political differences in the two worlds now and in the future in Orleans parish. The population and/or property in the breached Industrial Canal area may be of little political significance now ( as was in Hurricane Betsy of 1965). However, the property of the population in the breached 17th Street Canal/Lakeview area is owned by part of his political base and is now under 8 feet of water!

  • September 30, 2005 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    what everyone seems to be missing is W wanted Blanco to hand over the NG to Federal control thus allowing Bush to declare Martial Law and then send in Blackwater type troops to kill and arrest all the poor lacks left behind..The people who were suffering meant nothing to the White House because they dont vote or pay taxes to allow them to wage illgal and immoral wars..Wake up people its getting worse everyday..

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