Those who hate government and governing should never, under any circumstances, be placed in positions of power. Or, put another way, Republicans have a wonderful way of telling everyone that government doesn't work, only to prove it once they get elected. Since President Bush took office, there hasn't been a single disaster, scandal or embarrassment that hasn't had either his or his party's fingerprints all over it. This mess we're in both at home and abroad? Republicans own it.
This week, naturally, it's easy for our thoughts to gravitate toward the Gulf Coast, an entire region of our country left in ruin thanks not only to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also to deadbeat governance. So when you hear the president say things like, "And so I've come back on this anniversary to thank you for your courage, and to let you know the federal government stands with you still", you're left shaking your head. Still? Only a president representing a party looking to escape electoral disaster this fall would have the nerve to so callously insult disaster victims.
Let me illustrate the notion of deadbeat governance, a concept both practiced and perfected by the Republican Party. Deadbeat governance is the refuge of headstrong, incompetent amateurs who, in Texan terms, are all hat, no cattle. Deadbeat governance is the result of appearance-is-everything leaders whose policies wholly lack substance. Deadbeat governance is the return of buck passing to the Oval Office, a special brand of blame shifting designed specifically to shield top officials from the heat their wrong-headed initiatives produce. Deadbeat governance is governance by photo op, by the surprise visit, by looking back without actually having done anything. In short, the entire Bush presidency.
Think about Hurricane Katrina. What, to you, will be the lasting images burned into our collective memory thanks to this tragedy? They won't, to me, be of presidential leadership. No, they'll be of the president playing guitar while thousands died and millions were left abandoned. They'll be of the president lying to the American people by saying, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." They'll be of the president claiming, despite grave warnings of impending disaster and the fact that he didn't ask a single question during his final briefing, that the government was "fully prepared".
What's more, I'll remember Bush spending more time discussing Iraq than the approaching storm. I'll remember Condoleeza Rice buying shoes while thousands died. I'll remember our government refusing foreign aid while Republicans discussed abandoning the area and blamed the victims for their plight. I'll remember the lies, the media outrage, the claims to rebuild Trent Lott's house. And I'll remember when "genocide" became a word no longer spoken in a foreign tongue.
Days late. Billions of dollars short. Why? Because this president and his administration can't be bothered with the actual, on-the-ground details of what it will take to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Just like they couldn't be bothered with anything in Iraq past "Mission Accomplished" and "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." Just like they hide behind excuses for inaction with matters as economically influential as gas prices.
There's a pattern here. First, there's an administration screw-up. Often, sadly, of massive proportions. Then, someone else gets blamed for what went wrong. Instead of fixing the problem, the administration will fly over it, stage photo ops in the midst of it and make empty promises after it. Months, if not years, after the fact, the president will swoop in for a massive public relations push, just like an absentee father stays in touch by sending his children half-hearted birthday and Christmas cards and, if they're lucky, stops by their graduations.
So when I hear the president tell those victimized by disasters both natural and unnatural that he understands their plight and that "Some of the hardest work is still ahead", I'm not so much inspired as I am reminded that deadbeat governance isn't necessarily an outcome as it is a deliberate strategy. After all, it was a Republican, Grover Norquist, who once said, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Thanks to his party's deadbeat governance and his president's criminal neglect, the only logical response to Norquist's statement is this: Mission accomplished.