Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The most frightening thing about the federal response to the flooded city New Orleans is that we knew this would happen. FEMA is headed by a crony, a political loyalist who got the job as reward for services in the past and/or expected in the future. I’m not surprised that when it came time to coordinate an extremely complex rescue and recovery effort, he was totally out of his league. If important government offices are staffed by inexperienced hacks, what else can we honestly expect? If I appointed my three best buddies to first chair violin, first chair clarinet and first chair cello in the local orchestra, they may look nice parading about in their tuxedos, but what would one expect to hear when it came time to play?

I find myself thinking how many other Michael Browns are there lurking about within our government. How many other political hacks occupy positions that should be staffed with experts. But don’t we already know the answer to that question too? It’s sad that Bush thinks it’s more important to reward his donors and his donors’ friends than make sure he delegates tasks to capable and responsible people, but this is how the Bush White House does everything. I remember the second presidential debate when Bush was asked if he could name any mistakes he had made. I think he mentioned having made some “bad appointments.” But is Michael Brown who he was talking about? I think it’s much more likely that he meant instances where he misjudged the appointees loyalty. Larry Lindsey, Paul O’Neill, and Richard Clarke come to mind. To Bush, loyalty is not just the most important quality in an appointee, it is the only quality valued at all. How else can one explain the appointment of Michael Brown to the FEMA post? In the final analysis, what other qualities did he possess?

Sometimes I want to agree with Kanye West when he says “Bush doesn’t care about […] people.” Most times, though, I find it hard to believe that our president just flat out doesn’t care about his fellow Americans. I think the truth lies, as it so often does, somewhere in the middle. There’s a scene in the Graduate where Mr. Robinson, having found out about his wife’s affair, waits for Ben in his apartment. Mr. Robinson tries to determine why Benjamin loathes him so utterly. Ben pleads with Mr. Robinson saying that it had nothing to do with him, that he doesn’t hate him. “But you don’t respect me too much, do you?” counters Mr. Robinson. All Ben can do at this point is agree. There’s a fine line between malicious intent and reckless disrespect. I’m sure that Bush didn’t mean for New Orleans, or any other city for that matter, to be destroyed. But he clearly didn’t respect his office enough to realize that when you surround yourself solely with cronies, performance and ability will suffer and someone somewhere will most definitely be the worse for it.

This blog is based on a true story.