Monday, September 19, 2005

If a Petard is Hoisted in a Forest but No One is Listening, Does It Make a Sound?

One delightful side effect of the right wing excusing the federal government by blaming state and local officials for the response to Katrina is that we happen to have a state official here in Arizona that they might not want to make the beneficiary of this new-found demand for competent governance. But you never know.

Another almost-completely-missing-the-point headline, but that's how it goes. I guess the "blame the administration" stuff was too subtle this week. But it's an excuse to repeat The Late Show Top Ten list from Friday:

Top Ten Questions For The FEMA Director Application

10. "Are you able to convey a false sense of security?"
9. "What percentage of your resume is fabricated?"
8. "In a crisis, which state or local officials would you blame?"
7. "What are your plans after you resign?"
6. "Do you mind if the last guy left the office smelling like Arabian horses?"
5. "Which is most serious: A disaster, a catastrophe, or a dis-astrophe?"
4. "Does Robert Blake dating again count as an emergency?"
3. "Can the president easily add '-ie' to your last name to form a nickname?"
2. "Can you screw up bad enough to take the heat off the president's mistakes?"
1. "Michael Brown...Idiot or moron?"

East Valley Tribune, Sept. 18, 2005

This past week, conservatives have been extra-special busy making the case for reelecting Gov. Janet Napolitano.

It turns out that despite forming a huge new bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security, in spite of vast oceans of spending on DHS, the federal government isn’t capable of, and apparently isn’t supposed to be capable of, taking care of Americans in the event of catastrophes.

Instead, we’re told that if a disaster occurs, we should view the feds -- despite their size, funding, resources, and rhetoric -- as second-tier players. The real key when the worst occurs is our state and local officials. FEMA exists only to dole out money (to politically well-connected companies and friends of the administration) after the fact.

Even with a couple of days advance warning, the feds will be late and spend more time talking with lawyers than paying attention to the weather reports. Until TV anchors tell them what’s going on, they won’t know and won’t seem to care.

This administration and Congress can drop everything and act immediately if there’s an argument over removing a brain-dead woman’s feeding tube, but if hundreds of thousands of people have their homes and communities destroyed, well, that takes them a while longer to respond. We’ll interrupt the president’s vacation immediately for meaningless Terry Schiavo legislation, but after all, she was one person. Destroying Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana is merely statistics.

So we’ve learned that, for at least the next three years, if trouble hits, whether here or in neighboring California, we’re basically on our own for the first week or so. And if anything goes wrong, we’re supposed to depend on our governor and mayors, not the loftily-named Department of Homeland Security. So who do you want to be responsible for protecting you and your family while the feds diddle: Don Goldwater? John Greene? Teresa Ottesen? Or Gov. Janet Napolitano?

You always knew that governor was a big job. But now you know that for so long as the current administration and their buddies in Congress view the federal government as a dumping ground for hacks and campaign flacks, choosing a governor can be a matter of life or death.

That’s what the 2006 elections should be about -- which candidates will do a better job of keeping us safe and making the right decisions in a crisis. Anybody can give a good speech; too often we confuse a nice speech with the right stuff. Anybody can spend tons of money, after the floodwaters recede; too often we confuse quantity (of dollars) with quality (of leadership and response). But among those asking to be our governor through the end of the decade, who has the smarts, experience, and cool head needed to make the right calls in a crisis?

In 2006, you could vote for a former state and federal prosecutor, an experienced governor who diffused a dangerous prison hostage standoff with no loss of life. Or you can look to the other team, which so far is offering somebody whose only claim to fame is being a nephew, an insurance lawyer, and a college student.

Napolitano didn’t need to cut short her vacation to deal with the Lewis prison hostage crisis. She and her team didn’t let critics distract her from keeping those involved alive. Meanwhile, Republican officials, just like their fellow hacks in FEMA, spent their time consulting with lawyers, seeing if they could abuse the grand jury process for political gain.

Despite what the party currently ruling Washington may think, the point of government isn’t to cut taxes on the rich while simultaneously fighting two land wars in Asia and increasing spending by leaps and bounds. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you have no choice but to trust that your government has prepared, and has the resources, for an emergency -- and that competent people are in charge.

Conservatives are telling you that you can’t count on the feds, at least not while they run things. So listen to them. Your life may depend on having a competent governor, so make sure you elect (or in this case, reelect) one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A 25 year old college student is better than what AZ has now..At least she knows people have to stand up for what they believe in.