Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Government? We don't need no stinkin' government

Columnist Tom Friedman does not often pen a column that I agree with. It is not so much that I think he is wrong so much as I question his reasoning, even when he does advocate positions or ideas I agree with.

Today's column, however, is an exception.

Friedman sees Hurricane Katrina as stripping away the veneer of the Bush administration's and modern Republican claims of good governance and responsible leadership. It is representative of the abandoning of the basic principles of governance. The often critical question posed by administration critics. "Where are the adults?" comes to mind as more and more evidence of complete administrative collapse comes to light.

One of the most recent examples is that despite the heaped criticism upon the hapless former head of FEMA, Michael Brown, it turns out that the ultimate call had to be made by the Department of Homeland Security Chief, Secretary Michael Chertoff.
WASHINGTON - The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.
DHS is a Bush administration creation, one that occurred over the resistance of the administration. Their first appointment as Secretary of DHS, Bernie Kerik, was perhaps a sign of the administration's opinion of the importance of qualified leadership in an agency they seemingly had little interest in. Kerik withdrew his name after numerous questions arose over his past including a New Jersey warrant, possible criminal ties, and the employment of an illegal immigrant as a nanny. There was also the general perception that what Kerik has done best in his time in government service was to promote Kerik.

Friedman ends his column quoting a Singapore columnist:
Janadas Devan, a Straits Times columnist, tried to explain to his Asian readers how the U.S. is changing. "Today's conservatives," he wrote, "differ in one crucial aspect from yesterday's conservatives: the latter believed in small government, but believed, too, that a country ought to pay for all the government that it needed.

"The former believe in no government, and therefore conclude that there is no need for a country to pay for even the government that it does have. ... [But] it is not only government that doesn't show up when government is starved of resources and leached of all its meaning. Community doesn't show up either, sacrifice doesn't show up, pulling together doesn't show up, 'we're all in this together' doesn't show up."

- Murphy

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