Courtesy of David Frum:
I haven't written thus far about the New Orleans disaster. There are so many people on the spot, adding so much to genuine understanding, that it seemed an absurd waste of your time for me to add my distant words. Tonight though I was invited by the BBC to talk about the political fall-out from Katrina with Sidney Blumenthal. To prepare, I spent some hours immersing myself in the catalogue of left-wing attacks on the Bush administration.
Now let me declare at the onset: Katrina has obviously not been the finest hour of American emergency management. There may well be fault on the part of the federal government and this administration. I'm certainly open to evidence on that point.
But to review the wild, contradictory, and utterly opportunistic charges from the administration's critics is to enter a realm of madness. Some patient bloggers are responding to the charges one by one. Here is a post in reply to the charge that the levees were somehow neglected. Here is an accounting for the Louisiana National Guard: 8,000 of whom remain on duty in-state, including the Guard's most pertinent engineer group, numbering four battalions.
Here is a crushing reply to those who blame the Bush administration for hurricanes - when hurricane activity has in fact dropped since 1940. Here is one of many stories detailing how the notorious New Orleans police force led the breakdown of civic order. (For those who deplore the sharp drop-off in the flow of federal funds to Louisiana since 1999, here is a link to one important explanation: the resignation of former Speaker of the House and Appropriations Committee chairman Bob Livingston [R., La.] after Larry Flynt and Hustler magazine threatened to publish details of Livingston's marital infidelity, in order to punish Republicans for the then-looming impeachment of Bill Clinton on perjury charges.)
And yet ... and yet ... is all this really necessary? The time will come, and come very soon, when the great self-critical mechanisms of American society and government will go to work to study what went wrong. Those who deserve blame will get blame in plenty then. But now - with the dead still uncounted and unburied, with the living still struggling for refuge and help, is there not something indecent about the haste with which the American left avidly tries to turn this terrible disaster to political account?
Is there not something bizarre about their willingness to fire off accusation after accusation, each contradicting the last? The disaster was caused by the Bush administration's failure to protect the environment from global warming .... no, no, it was caused by the administration's refusal to manipulate the environment by funding more levees to control the Mississippi River .... it's Iraq, no it's budget cuts, no it's wetlands, and on and on and on.
Good God, what is wrong with these people? Will they ever learn to see somebody else's misfortune as something more than their political opportunity?
Mississippi governor Haley Barbour is right. This tragedy is bringing out the worst in many people. And I wonder, as I watch the volunteers cooking food for the houseless in the Houston Astrodome, or supplies being delivered by rescue workers who are living in cars because there is no place else for them, or the elderly being hoisted to safety - I wonder: why at a moment like this can we not live up to their generous spirit. Why can't we act first, investigate afterward, and let blame and credit be apportioned as they are due, when they are due?