September 13, 2005

Katrina Mantra

For 4 years, President Bush and his subordinates have used the sacred sorrow and anger we felt on 9/11 in the most cynical possible way, to push for actions and policies on their wish list, such as invading Iraq, weakening environmental rules, and limiting lawsuits, that had nothing to do with 9/11. I'm sure someone has done a search of how many times they have used "Iraq" and "September 11" in the same sentence. Apparently Bush and his loyalists wanted to create a "subliminable" (sic) association in our minds, and with many voters it worked. It's politics at its cynical worst, but nowadays that's just politics here in Washington.

Well, now it's the Democrats' turn. The Democrats should do the exact same thing with hurricane Katrina. Bush's EPA wants to weaken mercury pollution rules? Shouldn't do that, in the wake of Katrina's environmental devastation of the air and water. Cut back on education and health care programs? Shouldn't do that, considering the disproportionate impact Katrina has had on the poor. Blow a bigger hole in the deficit benefitting the rich by eliminating the estate tax and making other tax cuts permanent? It would be fiscally irresponsible and downright embarrassing to do that at a time when Katrina's victims need so much help from our treasury, and where the poverty rate has climbed over the past 4 years. On the contrary, the Democrats should argue, Katrina illustrates how we need to change our priorities to devote resources to improving the plight of the poor and middle class, and rebuilding our cities and our infrastructure. The Democrats should argue that we need to have a frank discussion about poverty and race. In other words, press the Democratic agenda.

It appears the Democrats have learned well from Bush, and are doing just that. The Democrats are conflating the issue of Katrina and their agenda in various forums, including before Judge Roberts at his confirmation hearing. Sen. Leahy: "Today, the devastation, despair facing millions of our fellow Americans in the Gulf region is a tragic reminder of why we have a federal government, why it's critical that our government be responsive." Sen. Kennedy: "The powerful winds and flood waters of Katrina tore away the mask that has hidden from public view the many Americans who are left out and left behind."

Are both of these cases of exploiting a tragedy to achieve items on one's political agenda? Well, yes, but not to do so and not having done so during the past 4 years of "September 11 has shown us that _____" is simply unilateral disarmament and a prescription for defeat. Also, note the difference: Bush's policies are designed to benefit a few, including the super wealthy who would benefit from the repeal of the estate tax, the folks who run oil companies and defense contractors and Halliburton and Bechtel. Most everyone else is hurt, and in the case of the soldiers sent to Iraq, many of whom are poor and/or minorities, where close to 2,000 have been killed and over 14,000 wounded, the hurt is literal.

In contrast, the Democrats' policies and philosophies are largely designed to help people, especially the poor and middle class but also nearly everyone else, with pro-health care, pro-environment, pro-education, pro-fiscal responsibility programs.

Obviously, the Republicans and the Democrats have a different philosophy of government. Bush's philosophy and the programs he tried to push under the guise of 9/11 didn't have much connection to 9/11, but he's had some success in pushing them anyway, especially in selling the country on the invasion of Iraq. Imagine the success the Democrats can have using Katrina to push an agenda that actually does have a direct connection to Katrina.

It's payback time.


At 1:20 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Well, it looks like the GOP has wasted no time following this advice already. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that the GOP will be pushing its pet agenda, including lawsuit immunity, tax cutting, and relaxation of environmental rules in the areas affected by Katrina. In other words, the GOP agenda. Got to hand it to the GOP, when it comes to tactical matters, they are the best.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And which of these do you object to?


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