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September 02, 2005

Ideological Casualties

Over at the blog of my soon-to-be employer, they've got a great discussion of the ideological ramifications of Katrina, both for big government liberalism and small government conservatism. Bush, of course, has been this strange mixture of government growth and administrative incompetence, almost as if he's running a kamikaze mission to prove the Republican case against government. But conservatives, generally, are all for the private market and individual charity. If Bush really was so uncomfortable with government involvement, he could still do a bang-up job relying on his church/industry connections to create a parallel and powerful rescue effort. The government could take care of the basics, but the private and theological spheres could provide much of the material, cash, and space. In doing, Bush would help discredit Big Government and legitimize the conservative philosophy.

He hasn't. And that he's hasn't demonstrates his basic absence of a driving ideology. He's neither able to effectively deploy government or call on his friends outside of it. He's just incompetent, as I said before, a small man in a big office. He speaks the language of small government conservatism because it gets him elected, pushes big government solutions because they prove easiest, but is so separated and uninterested in the whole enterprise that the result is a wreck of incoherence and unexpected outcomes. So when something like Katrina comes around, he's neither creative enough to deal with it in an innovative way or competent enough to deal with it in the old way. So he just doesn't really deal with it.

My prediction with Katrina, with the last few years generally, is that it's going to help discredit this form of government, and create a yearning for a reformed big government. Americans know their federal administration they pay for should be able to work better than this. They know that, during future crises, it's going to need to work better than this. Someone, probably from the business world like Warner, will gain a lot of traction running on a platform to make government work again, with Katrina and fear of terrorist attacks being the primary arguments for the campaign. The media coverage has settled on a sharp attack against government incompetence and out-of-touch politicians -- seeing Cooper flay Louisiana's Mary Landrieux for being so emotionally off-key may well have been a crystallizing confrontation. Seeing reporter after reporter goggle at Michael Brown's professed ignorance that anyone in the Superdome was uncomfortable means this is breaking through.

Government is failing. They're doing it obviously. And reporters and citizens alike are smart enough to extrapolate that if they failed here, they could do it again during a crisis that their hometown. Bush is discrediting small government conservatism by not mobilizing the private sector and he's highlighting the need for an effective big government to pick up the slack. Mark y words, in 2008 (and, if we're smart, 2006), someone will make Katrina, and the lethargic, dumb government it revealed, the message.

September 2, 2005 | Permalink

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» Ezra Klein: Ideological Casualties from Zuckervati MissingLinks
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Tracked on Sep 5, 2005 9:58:14 AM

Comments

I hope you're right, Ezra, but I don't see much evidence that this is anything but wishful thinking. As far as preventative measures went, I think you posted earlier that even though the disaster is a damning indictment of Bush's misuse and underfunding of the National Guard and FEMA, one probably didn't cause the other. And post-hurricane, there's been quite a bit of incompetence at the state level and/or outside the Republican Party, as seen in Anderson Cooper vs. Mary Landrieu.

If the anti-SNAFUBAR consensus is as strong in a week as it is right now, I'll be more optimistic. But considering what they've already got away with in the past, and the glimpse of right-wing talk radio you pointed out, I'm afraid the consensus will be more like "Well of course the Feds are useless, Rush has been saying that for years!"

Posted by: Cyrus | Sep 2, 2005 2:34:11 PM

I will probably phrase this badly and offensively, so I will do it at Ezra's blog. I have been seriously grappling with whether liberals should help with donations at all. I have given, and likely will again, but it bothers me.

Rightie:We don't need no stinkin gov't.

Leftie: Yes we do, it is essential and necessary, but just this once let's raise millions of dollars in private charity so Bush can pass his estate tax cuts.

Rightie:See! The private sector handled it!

Medicare cuts and Social Security "Reform" are still on the Congressional Agenda, and wishful thinking is not going to stop them.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Sep 2, 2005 4:01:45 PM

Bob, just make the donation. Ninety-nine percent of the country wouldn't even begin to understand what the hell you're talking about.

Posted by: billg | Sep 2, 2005 7:57:54 PM

"Ninety-nine percent of the country wouldn't even begin to understand what the hell you're talking about."

And that is the largest part of the problem. I have donated, sorry I can't afford to donate everywhere.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Sep 2, 2005 8:59:28 PM

"He's just incompetent, as I said before, a small man in a big office."
Why is this a big surprise? He's screwed up everything he's ever attempted to do in his life.
With the most powerful military on the face of the earth, he couldn't prosecute his illegal, immoral war against an destroyed, worn-out, non-army with no weapons.

Posted by: PlacitasRoy | Sep 2, 2005 9:48:57 PM

I'm no fan of Tricky Dick but after hurricane Camille he had the 3rd infantry on the scene within 48 hours. He wasn't strummin' a guitar or giving speeches how we whooped Japan's butt 60 years ago like our current president was doing on Tuesday. At least Nixon exhibited some true leadership in a crisis. That's what need. Big government and small government are both disfunctional without good leadership.

Posted by: BR | Sep 2, 2005 11:21:22 PM

Congrats on the new job! Push your public healthcare series into the mainstream with your new platform. The more people learn about other systems the worse our system looks.

One aspect of this disaster to think about is how much smoother and simpler the healthcare of the displaced would be if we had any one of a number of comprehensive coverage healthcare systems.

Posted by: joejoejoe | Sep 3, 2005 10:05:58 AM

All we need now is for Bush to get a bullhorn, stand atop the debris and say, "I CAN'T hear you!"

Posted by: Dolfina | Sep 3, 2005 11:00:02 AM

It is apparent to me that Bush has no clue what he is doing as a leader. He gets this blank look on his face and tells the people in New Orleans to (hang in there.) Thats a real intelligent phrase coming from what is called the President of the United State. If Bill Clinton had been in office, the problems in New Orleans as well as the gas prices, war and the many other problems we are facing would be over. I thnk he needs to consult with the greatest Presidnet this country has ever had and that is Bill Clinton. I just hope Hilary bacomes our next President and maybe we can get out of this mess.

Posted by: Earla Watson | Sep 9, 2005 12:52:29 PM

I AM IN WHOLE-HEARTED AGREEMENT WITH NEARLY EVERYTHING YOU SAID. I am a democrat to the bone and i love how much information you and Reid and "Robertson" portray everything.

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