When David Brooks first joined the NY Times in September 2003, it initially seemed that he was going to be able to keep his conservative leanings, and would be a fine replacement for William Safire once the latter had retired. However, lately it seems that Mr. Brooks is being co-opted by others on the Times editorial staff.
In fact, his latest op-ed sounds like it could have been written by either Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd:
The scrapbook of history accords but a few pages to each decade, and it is already clear that the pages devoted to this one will be grisly. There will be pictures of bodies falling from the twin towers, beheaded kidnapping victims in Iraq and corpses still floating in the waterways of New Orleans five days after the disaster that caused them.
Katrina means that the political culture, already sour and bloody-minded in many quarters, will shift. There will be a reaction. There will be more impatience for something new. There is going to be some sort of big bang as people respond to the cumulative blows of bad events and try to fundamentally change the way things are.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon repeatedly prodded reluctant Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans. Blitzer asked Cummings on The Situation Room: “Do you believe, if it was, in fact, a slow response, as many now believe it was, was it in part the result of racism?” When Cummings demurred from such a blanket accusation, Blitzer wouldn’t give up: “There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?"
Later, on CNN’s NewsNight, Aaron Brown took up the same agenda with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones: “What I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans?” When she wouldn’t take the bait, Brown lectured: “Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there, is a matter of race and/or class?”
Opening the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams predicted that the "catastrophic hurricane strike, and the U.S. government response to it, will in the years or decades to come, perhaps necessitate a national discussion on race, on oil, politics, class, infrastructure, the environment and more.” ABC’s Ted Koppel charged on Nightline that “the slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina has led to questions about race, poverty and a seemingly indifferent government.”
With little fanfare, the Houston Chronicle reported that Vice President Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, had been awarded a contract to assist in post-Katrina cleanup efforts:
The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Halliburton subsidiary KBR will also perform damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans as soon as it is safe to do so.
Given the media’s fascination with this company, along with the ongoing insinuations that the war in Iraq has been a financial boon for Halliburton, one has to wonder how this announcement will be disseminated by a currently scandal-hungry press.
Our friends over at the AP who never tire of using any excuse to Bush-bash are at it again in style.
In another of their rollicking “Newsviews,” Ron Fournier shouts, “Rhetoric Not Matching Relief.” Already implying that the nation is fingering Bush for the pain, suffering and death in New Orleans, Fournier goes on to accuse him of far worse:
Bush got himself in trouble by trying to put the best face on a horrible situation. The strategy is so common in Washington that operatives have a name for it, "spin," and the Bush White House has perfected the shady art.
The Associated Press posted an article by Barry Schweid detailing hurricane relief aid being sent by a number of other countries. In the process the writer just couldn't help taking a cheap shot at U.S. generosity, which has pumped billions of dollars in foreign aid to others in need. First there was this line which followed a paragraph about Japan's contributions to the disaster relief:
The United States historically has aided victims of disasters, but it is not universally recognized as providing the level of aid expected of a rich nation.
Then, a couple of paragraphs later we have another comment about American aid:
The United States, the world's largest economy, lags behind other rich nations in the percentage of its giving to nations in Africa, the world's poorest continent.
In the days since Hurricane Katrina struck, there has been a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing at the Bush administration concerning budget cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers that might have shored up the levee system surrounding New Orleans. The most recent such tirade comes from Times economic writer Paul Krugman:
Why wasn't more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. "The corps," an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain."
The Early Show on CBS treated FEMA Director Mike Brown and Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) to tough questioning, although Brown was seared by co-host Hannah Storm while Harry Smith, reporting from New Orleans, only slightly singed the state's chief executive, and mostly on relief efforts underway now, not on what the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans could have done before the hurricane.
Below are the questions to Brown and Blanco respectively as I transcribed them.:
As depicted in a recent posting by NewsBusters own David Pierre, cable outlets like CNN have started to depict race as a "hindrance of choice" to the rescue efforts that are taking place on a massive scale in New Orleans. Predictably, old media outlets like the New York Times have followed suit.
In an article by the Times David Gonzalez, the fault lies not with a category 5 Hurricane, but with white people in general, and President Bush principally. Gonzalez starts out this way:
No longer mincing words, a New York Timeseditorial puts the blame for the current post-Katrina disaster area in New Orleans squarely on the backs of the Bush administration and its diverted attention to the war in Iraq:
Watching helplessly from afar, many citizens wondered whether rescue operations were hampered because almost one-third of the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard, and an even higher percentage of the Mississippi National Guard, were 7,000 miles away, fighting in Iraq. That's an even bigger loss than the raw numbers suggest because many of these part-time soldiers had to leave behind their full-time jobs in police and fire departments or their jobs as paramedics. Regardless of whether they wear public safety uniforms in civilian life, the guardsmen in Iraq are a crucial resource sorely missed during these early days, when hours have literally meant the difference between evacuation and inundation, between civic order and chaos, between life and death.
Anyone seen Kathleen Blanco lately? Remember her, the Democratic Governor of Louisiana, the lady who put in a few shaky, overwhelmed performances at the beginning of the Katrina catastrophe? She seems to have disappeared off the MSM radar screen.
How about the Mayor of New Orleans, another Democrat? How many Americans can even name him? Compare and contrast with the role Rudy Giuliani played in the wake of 9/11.
Instead, Today's focus this morning was almost entirely on the shortcomings of the federal [read Republican-led] government in its response to Katrina.
Katie Couric spoke of "the growing chorus of criticism over the government's response to this national crisis."
Chorus-leader Couric first grilled FEMA Director Michael Brown. Criticized about the lack of law and order, Brown said that by Sunday there would be 30,000 National Guard troops on the ground. That wasn't good enough for Katie, who after saying she didn't want to "belabor the point" went on to do just that, carping that "it seems like a pretty long lag time."