While out driving yesterday, I found myself behind an SUV (betcha they're having fun keeping that puppy gassed up these days...) with a bumper sticker that said,
“Bush won. Deal with it.”
Right. You mean deal with it like the former residents of New Orleans are dealing with it?
I intentionally ignored our fine president’s press conference last week, in which he admitted that the federal government had failed the people of New Orleans. I ignored it because I am still angry. Because, as I said before...
No fucking shit, Sherlock. Thanks for noticing.
The following was delivered yesterday at Brown University in Providence, R.I., by Sen. John Kerry.
You know, that guy who didn’t win.
“…Katrina stripped away any image of competence and exposed to all the true heart and nature of this administration. The truth is that for four and a half years, real-life choices have been replaced by ideological agenda, substance replaced by spin, governance second place always to politics.…
…I know the President went on national television last week and accepted responsibility for Washington's poor response to Katrina. That's admirable. And it's a first. As they say, the first step toward recovery is to get out of denial. But don't hold your breath hoping acceptance of responsibility will become a habit for this administration. On the other hand, if they are up to another ‘accountability moment’ they ought to start by admitting one or two of the countless mistakes in conceiving, ‘selling,’ planning and executing their war of choice in Iraq.
I obviously don't expect that to happen. And indeed, there's every reason to believe the President finally acted on Katrina and admitted a mistake only because he was held accountable by the press, cornered by events, and compelled by the outrage of the American people, who with their own eyes could see a failure of leadership and its consequences.
Natural and human calamity stripped away the spin machine, creating a rare accountability moment, not just for the Bush administration, but for all of us to take stock of the direction of our country and do what we can to reverse it. That's our job—to turn this moment from a frenzied expression of guilt into a national reversal of direction. Some try to minimize the moment by labeling it a ‘blame game,’ but as I've said, this is no game and what is at stake is much larger than the incompetent and negligent response to Katrina.
This is about the broader pattern of incompetence and negligence that Katrina exposed, and beyond that, a truly systemic effort to distort and disable the people's government, and devote it to the interests of the privileged and the powerful. It is about the betrayal of trust and abuse of power. And in all the often horrible and sometimes ennobling sights and sounds we've all witnessed over the last two weeks, there's another sound just under the surface: the steady clucking of Administration chickens coming home to roost.
We wouldn't be hearing that sound if the people in Washington running our government had cared to listen in the past…
…The bottom line is simple: The ‘we'll do whatever it takes’ administration doesn't have what it takes to get the job done.
It has consistently squandered time, tax dollars, political capital, and even risked American lives on sideshow adventures: A war of choice in Iraq against someone who had nothing to do with 9/11; a full-scale presidential assault on Social Security when everyone knows the real crisis is in health care—Medicare and Medicaid. And that's before you get to willful denial on global warming; avoidance on competitiveness; complicity in the loss and refusal of healthcare to millions….
…Katrina is the background of a new picture we must paint of America. For five years our nation's leaders have painted a picture of America where ignoring the poor has no consequences; no nations are catching up to us; and no pensions are destroyed. Every criticism is rendered unpatriotic. And if you say ‘War on Terror’ enough times, Katrina never happens.
Well, Katrina did happen, and it washed away that coat of paint and revealed the true canvas of America with all its imperfections. Now, we must stop this Administration from again whitewashing the true state of our challenges. We have to paint our own picture—an honest picture with all the optimism we deserve—one that gives people a vision where no one is excluded or ignored. Where leaders are honest about the challenges we face as a nation, and never reserve compassion only for disasters.
Rarely has there been a moment more urgent for Americans to step up and define ourselves again. On the line is a fundamental choice. A choice between a view that says ‘you're on your own,’ ‘go it alone,’ or ‘every man for himself.’ Or a different view, a different philosophy, a different conviction of governance—a belief that says our great American challenge is one of shared endeavor and shared sacrifice….
…I still believe America's destiny is to become a living testament to what free human beings can accomplish by acting in unity. That's easy to dismiss by those who seem to have forgotten we can do more together than just waging war…
…They didn't listen to the Army Corps of Engineers when they insisted the levees be reinforced.
They didn't listen to the countless experts who warned this exact disaster scenario would happen.
They didn't listen to years of urgent pleading by Louisianans about the consequences of wetlands erosion in the region, which exposed New Orleans and surrounding parishes to ever-greater wind damage and flooding in a hurricane.
They didn't listen when a disaster simulation just last year showed that hundreds of thousands of people would be trapped and have no way to evacuate New Orleans.
They didn't listen to those of us who have long argued that our insane dependence on oil as our principle energy source, and our refusal to invest in more efficient engines, left us one big supply disruption away from skyrocketing gas prices that would ravage family pocketbooks, stall our economy, bankrupt airlines, and leave us even more dependent on foreign countries with deep pockets of petroleum.
They didn't listen when Katrina approached the Gulf and every newspaper in America warned this could be "The Big One" that Louisianans had long dreaded. They didn't even abandon their vacations…
…It comes down to the fact that the job of government is to prepare for your future—not ignore it. It should prepare to solve problems—not create them.
This Administration and the Republicans who control Congress give in to special interests and rob future generations. Real leadership stands up to special interests and sets the course for future generations. And the fact is we do face serious challenges as a nation, and if we don't address them now, we handicap your future. My generation risks failing its obligation of assuring you inherit a safer, stronger America. To turn this around, the greatest challenges must be the starting point. I hope Katrina gives us the courage to face them and the sense of urgency to beat them.
That's why the next few months are such a critical time. You'll read about the Katrina investigations and fact-finding missions. You'll get constant updates on the progress rebuilding New Orleans and new funding for FEMA. Washington becomes a very efficient town once voters start paying attention…
...Today, every American knows the name Katrina—and once again we know our government was undeniably unprepared, even as Americans have shown their willingness to sacrifice to make up for it. But in these uncertain weeks of Katrina's aftermath, we must ask ourselves not just whether a great country can be made greater—the sacrifice and generosity of Americans these last weeks answered that question with a resounding yes.
No, our challenge is greater—it's to speak out so loudly that Washington has no choice but to make choices worthy of this great country—choices worthy of the sacrifice of our neighbors in the Gulf Coast and our troops all around the world.
What's in it for all of us? Nothing less than the character of our country—and your future.”
You can read the whole thing here.