A rant about New Orleans

by Benjamin Kuipers

I'm not going to defend the genuine criminals there. I'm sure there are some. I'd bet you dollars to donuts it's less than the media portrayals suggest. (Or is the media accurate here, while it exaggerates the bad news in Iraq, eh?) It's essential to restore law and order in New Orleans. But don't talk about "zero tolerance", or you're going to be hanging the proverbial kid who steals a loaf of bread.

Meanwhile, I'm seeing a frantic attempt to isolate the Bush administration from responsibility for competent governance, yet again.

I'm sure you're going to dismiss me as a "Bush basher", but this is about governance, not partisanship. Look at the pattern.

Now I'm seeing all this buck-passing. It was an Act of God. The governors should have done this. The mayors should have done that. No one could have anticipated the levees breaking. (Hah!) The looters make it impossible to help anyone. Come on!

Not to mention the subtext that it's really the fault of those Muslims, those Blacks, and those poor people. If they don't have money for bus tickets, they should drive! "Let them eat cake!"

This goes way beyond incompetence. The most charitable interpretation I can imagine for this pattern is that the Bush administration lives in Fantasyland. The decision-makers have built a world of illusion, in which everything works out their way. They actively resist evidence that this illusory world might not be the real world, in which their actions have consequences different from what they hope.

Grownups, IMHO, actively seek out contrary evidence, to test and improve their understanding of the world they live and act in. This is an everyday version of the scientific method, but that gets into a whole other discussion.

But these people have power, so they make their decisions, take their actions, and consequences happen. Levees break. People drown and die of thirst. Terrorists rejoice and flock to Iraq to enjoy and encourage the collapse of civilization there. (We might be making slow and painful progress at last in Iraq, climbing out of a hole where the Bush administration did a lot of the digging.) The deficit continues to spiral out of control, and the administration doesn't know how to be responsible about spending. No one worries about global climate change. But it's always someone else's fault.

As far as I can tell, the Bush administration has no concept of the hard work of governance. Of planning for multiple contingencies, taking into account uncertainty about what's happening. Of making responsible investments for the future while restraining discretionary spending.

They just don't know how to govern. They live in Fantasyland.

I apologize for losing my temper here, but this is truly awful.

Written 3 September 2005.