Take Charge

In a conversation with a Republican-leaning friend the other day, she told me that it annoyed her that people were blaming Bush for what happened down South. Did he order the hurricane?

And at the time I laughed it off, because seriously, all arguments about global warming aside, of course he didn’t order the hurricane. It’s a classic conservative arguing tactic: respond to the point that nobody’s raising.

Another somewhat conservative friend used the same trick on me last night: Well, local government fucked up, too.

Even conceding THAT point (which I don’t, by the way), it’s been more than two weeks now since we knew a major hurricane was going to slam New Orleans and the Gulf Coast like God’s own thunder. And since it is the job of the federal government to respond to disasters, I find I’ve stopped giving a shit so much about who said what the first day, or even the second. I don’t blame Bush for causing the hurricane, and I’m willing to allow that even in the best case scenario, under competent and repsonsive leadership, things would have been chaotic for, say, the first 24 hours or so.

But it’s been two weeks now, and what’s freaking me out is that things like this are still happening.

A German military plane carrying 15 tons of military rations for survivors of Hurricane Katrina was sent back by U.S. authorities, officials said Saturday.

The plane was turned away Thursday because it did not have the required authorization, a German government spokesman said.

The spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, declined to comment on a report in the German news magazine Der Spiegel that U.S. authorities refused the delivery on the grounds that the NATO military rations could carry mad cow disease.

The spokesman said U.S. authorities had since given approval for future aid flights, but it was unclear whether the German military would try again to deliver the rations. Since Hurricane Katrina struck the United States, many international donors have complained of frustration that bureaucratic entanglements have hindered shipments to the United States.

A U.S. Embassy official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name, blamed the German flight’s rejection on temporary technical and logistical problems that have accompanied recovery operations in the devastated region.

Let’s pretend for a moment that it really was all local government’s fault that people were trapped, dying, starving, at the Superdome and convention center in New Orleans. Let’s play along with the little scenario that the Blog of the Year has going, where governors are responsible for Anderson Cooper being the closest thing some poor woman had to help in digging through the ruins of her home looking for her wedding pictures.

This is the take-charge, shoot ’em up government of Strong Leaders and Real Americans, the federales with cojones, the only people with big enough balls to catch Bin Laden, remember? This is the government that promised us they’d catch bad guys “dead or alive,” that they’d kill anything that bugs them, that they wouldn’t wait for terrorists to attack before they started firebombing the shit out of any Ay-rab they could find. This is the government of the biggest cocks that anyone has ever seen.

So if they really thought local government was incompetent, why not swoop in the second day? Why not go in the day after the hurricane hit and say, Blanco, Nagin, we’re taking it from here? They are, after all, the government of tanks and guns and planes and grenade launchers. A few dozen looters and lunatics with .22s was going to stop them? If they thought something was wrong, why did they let pettiness like “jurisdiction” stop them? I thought jurisdiction was for pussies. I thought rules were for Democrats. I thought listening to other people and waiting for permission was what you did if you weren’t serious about loving your country.

Or so they’ve spent the past four and a half years telling me.

When you get right down to it that’s what a lot of people who voted for Bush found attractive about his government. They were the people who were gonna get it done and fuck the ACLU if they didn’t like it. So why, in the face of the weather, did they suddenly turn into the government of “I can’t set foot across the border until the governor and the mayor give me a signed and notarized say-so?”

Unless that tough-guy act was just an act, after all. Then it makes perfect sense. So which is it, conservatives? Did Bush’s team lack the balls to override state and local government interference keeping them from helping people, or are you just as completely full of shit about that argument as you have been about every other talking point that’s come out of McClellan’s ass since the waves started rising?

It’s one or the other. You can’t argue both.