We veterans of the 2004 campaign can hardly imagine the American political left sinking lower than it did then: the fake memo, Michael Moore's celluloid sandwich board, George Soros, "Bush is Hitler," Bruce Springsteen. And yet, as its reaction to Hurricane Katrina makes plain, the left is perfectly willing to sink a lot deeper.
It all seemed to start with an op-ed by a certain Ross Gelbspan in the Boston Globe. Technically, Gelbspan (who once falsely advertised himself as a Pulitzer Prize winner) blamed the "oil and coal industries" for Katrina's devastation. But lest you missed the subtlety of the charge, Gelbspan only too gladly tossed you out of the turnip truck: "In 2000, big oil and big coal scored their biggest electoral victory yet when President George W. Bush was elected president -- and subsequently took suggestions from the industry for his climate and energy policies."
And they were off. You all know the headlines and sound bites. Cindy Sheehan, who seemed to get over the grief of her son's death easily enough once the subject turned from the war to the hurricane, falsely claimed President Bush was golfing during the carnage in New Orleans. Sydney Blumenthal blamed the President for "cutting" funding to stop wetland erosion (forget, if you can, that the wetlands in question have been eroding since the Johnson administration). A blogger on the DNC's official blog castigated the president for discouraging looting. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. blamed Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour for helping to derail America's adoption of the Kyoto (even though the U.S. Senate rejected Kyoto unanimously.) The repugnant Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote, "The president didn't seem to notice" the death and destruction. And smashing all records for the dumbest public utterance ever, Kayne West (who?) said Katrina was so devastating because George W. Bush doesn't care about black people.
Blame Katrina's devastation on God's wrath toward a city soaked in its own pride and you are a crackpot. Blame the French for constructing a city in a hole by the ocean and you are insensitive. Blame the city's own residents for not helping their neighbors evacuate, leaving many behind to suffer, and you just don't get it. Blame no one at all and you are out-of-touch. But blame George W. Bush and the New York Times will hold page one.
YOU MAY EVEN HAVE a personal anecdote, as I do. Asking my wife how much we should donate to the Mercy Corps was an apparent invitation to the resident MoveOn.org member with whom she was conversing at the time to launch into lecture mode.
"Who is the Mercy Corps? You have to watch out for these charities. They didn't even list a lot of the better secular charities on the website."
"Wait, wait, wait. Who is 'they'? What website?" I responded, baffled.
"The Bush administration. The government website," the MoveOn.org member said.
(I know, I know: my bad. How long have I been around and I still don't know who "they" is whenever these people condescend to me?)
"Don't you think that's a little petty?" I asked. "I mean, we're just trying to help people."
"Well, they listed Pat Robertson's charity on the website. I just want to help people, too. But they didn't list..." and then the MoveOn.org member prattled off four or five well-known secular charities.
"I don't think you'll have any trouble finding those on the World Wide Web," I said.
"George Bush isn't making it any easier."
I walked away the bigger man, but more discouraged than ever over the derangement of the American left. This person was more interested in the charities listed on a government website than in actually helping people.
AFTER ALMOST A FULL WEEK of Bush hating, the public's response to the president's response to Hurricane Katrina bares a creepy resemblance to the 2004 election results: 46% approve and 47% disapprove, according to the latest Washington Post poll (that the Post would even take a poll at such a time confirms yet again the sickening partisanship that consumes the left and its cheerleaders in the mainstream media.) Post reporters Richard Morin and Claudia Deane seemed disappointed with the data, calling it "a result that might offer some cheer to beleaguered White House staffers who feared a stronger negative reaction."
The bottom line in America's current political lunacy is, disgustingly, this: a hurricane can fill a hole seven feet below sea level with water and almost half the country will blame George W. Bush and the media will only too gleefully cover it.
Everything is now fodder for an attack ad. Even the weather.
I can't hold President Bush completely blameless, though. He has perpetuated the obnoxious fallacy that the federal government will be there for you from the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse. Writing in the New York Times, David Brooks predicts a dramatic political shift as a result of Katrina's chaos:
Katrina means that the political culture, already sour and bloody-minded in many quarters, will shift. There will be a reaction. There will be more impatience for something new. There is going to be some sort of big bang as people respond to the cumulative blows of bad events and try to fundamentally change the way things are.
If Brooks is correct, we can only hope it manifests in a wiser, less gullible, more self-reliant populous and more responsible politicians who won't pretend the government will -- or even can -- save them from natural disasters and looters (or even acts of terror, for that matter).