Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Land that Bush Forgot

For all its immediate horror, grim post-attack clean-up and economic ripple effects, 9/11’s greatest impact on the nation was symbolic. The zone of destruction was focused. The deaths were quick and concentrated in one day. Although fire and police were immediately overwhelmed, the health care system was not. The lingering injuries were primarily physic. The rest of New York City rallied admirably, and with it, the country.

It was a national disaster made to order for the leadership style of George W. Bush, which relies on symbolic shows of resolve. But as illustrated by the subsequent pursuit of Osama, Sadaam, and democracy in a fractured Iraq, symbolic efforts don’t get the hard things done.

Bush has finally hugged two black Mississippi sisters in a show of concern, and gotten down on the dry ground to stride resolutely with Gov. Haley Barbour, who really should get out and walk more. But Katrina is clearly not his kind of national disaster.

The victims of 9/11 represented his real constituency, with Wall Street and the Pentagon its twin anchors. The victims of Katrina, even the mainstream media are taking pains to point out, live in the land Bush forgot.

Worse, they have not been displaced by an easy-to-hate but hard-to-locate enemy. How can Bush vow to go after those who harbor God?

Our National Guard units, including those whose mission is to repair and build infrastructure, have been deployed to Iraq. According to CNN, one-third of the New Orleans police force deserted, presumably to look after their own families first. Disaster relief plans are clearly inadequate to the situation. Gas prices have gone from bad to worse. We now have a third world country with a sizable contingent of refugees on our gulf shore.

I hope Bush and his people can rise to the occasion, with the full support of all Americans. But if his party continues to act like limiting the estate tax, stem cell research and teaching of evolution are the biggest issues facing this country, then Katrina may finally have done what the Democrats have failed to do — expose how empty compassionate conservatism really is when it comes to the people who truly need it.

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