The blame game & the big blow
September 13, 2005
First came the Katrina disaster. A savage natural phenomenon bringing high winds, broken levees, widespread flooding and the destruction of a way of life.Then came the FEMA disaster, a separate but closely related political phenomenon bringing hot air, broken promises, widespread floundering and the destruction of many lives.And then, immediately after, came the ranks of Republicans chanting, as one, “This is no time to play the blame game … blame game … blame game” – thus hanging a dismissive, childish name on a process that adults might call “accountability.” But you can’t score a lot of political points by claiming, “This is no time for accountability.”Actually, they’re right. This really is not the time for finger-pointing or blame-gaming. Maybe it’s not even time for accountability. When the vampire has his teeth sunk deep in your throat, it isn’t the time to start arguing about who was supposed to go to the grocery store and stock up on garlic.So, OK, we should stop blaming one another – and, by the way, that includes those same Republicans who, after rejecting the “blame game,” quickly add, “Besides, it was all the local guys’ fault.” No time for any of that. We should stand shoulder-to-shoulder, clean up the mess and save lives.The problem is, the Republicans have already used up the “We must stand united in times of tragedy” play. Right after 9-11, the Democrats pretty much dropped all their political maneuvering and signed on for whatever the President asked. Including – you might recall – the invasion of Iraq.Then, in the 2002 congressional elections, the Republicans attacked Democratic candidates as “soft on terror” and untrustworthy when it came to defending America – including, for example, Max Cleland, a senator who had volunteered for the Army and lost both legs and his right arm while serving in a combat zone in Vietnam. The Republican candidate ran a campaign ad showing pictures of Cleland and Osama bin Laden. So much for standing united in times of tragedy.Meanwhile, rabid right-wingers have been insisting that the Republicans should refuse any kind of compromise on any issue. They must crush the Democrats whenever possible. “We won the election,” they say. “We’ve got ’em down, now let’s finish ’em off. No mercy.”So it’s a little late to ask the Democrats to back off and play nice in the name of solidarity. They’ve already seen how that turns out.As George Bush once put it, “Fool me once, shame on [long silence] shame on you. [long silence, frozen stare] Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”Ain’t that the truth.In fact, sad as it is, we may be too polarized as a nation to stand united on anything. It’s too late for that now.Suppose George Bush were to call a press conference and, on national television, walk on water – and I mean literally, actually walk on water. Democrats would immediately declare that it only demonstrated how polluted our water has become … because of the environmental policies of the Bush administration.Furthermore, they’d add, if he’s walking on water, next thing you know, he’s going to sprout a halo. Walking on water, wearing a halo … that’s clearly a violation of the separation between church and state. We knew it!And, on the other side, if George Bush were to show up for the State of the Union address with bright red horns and “666” – the “number of the Beast,” the sign of the Antichrist – burning in letters of fire on his forehead? Well, the Republicans, led by the Christian right, would start by declaring it was an act of high moral courage. That he was taking mankind’s sins on his own two shoulders. And that he was striking fear into the hearts of the Muslim extremists.And then they’d start shouting about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.Of course, that might bring up a touchy subject: a president linked in scandal to a woman’s name.Monica brought down Bill Clinton. And now maybe Katrina will bring down George Bush.A big blow destroys another politician.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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