September 13, 2005

Michael Kinsley On Hindsight and Hurricane Katrina

Michael Kinsley and I do not see eye to eye on many issues. However, he brings up a really good point on the "culture of blame" that has descended upon us in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - hindsight is 20/20:

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and other Louisiana politicians, for instance, have been flashing their foresight all over the tube. They say they asked repeatedly for more money so that the Army Corps of Engineers could strengthen the levees, but repeatedly the Bush administration actually cut the corps' budget instead.... a senator may not be the best judge of the need for a vast federal construction project in her state. Landrieu's I-told-you-so's would be more impressive if the press release archive on her website didn't contain equally urgent calls to spend billions of dollars to build boats the Navy hasn't asked for in Louisiana shipyards, self-congratulations for having planted a billion dollars of "coastal impact assistance" for Louisiana in the energy bill (this is before the flood), and so on. Did she want flood control or did she want $10 million to have "America's largest river swamp" declared a "National Heritage Area"? ....

Obviously —obviously in hindsight, that is —we should have spent the money to strengthen the New Orleans levees. President Clinton should have done it. Presidents Bush the Elder and Reagan should have done it. As Tim Noah notes in Slate, warnings about the perilous New Orleans levees go back at least to Fanny Trollope in 1832. In fact, the one president who is pretty much in the clear on this is our current Bush —not because he did anything about the levees but because even if he had started something, it probably wouldn't have been finished yet. ...

Did all the attention and money devoted to protecting us from a terror attack after 9/11 leave us less prepared for a giant flood? Undoubtedly. And if the flood had come first, the opposite would be true. We, the citizens, would have demanded it, and then blamed the politicians and the "institutions" when it turned out to be a bad bet. There is no foresight. We fight the last war because hindsight is all we really have.

I agree. It is refreshing to see a fairly honest assessment from a "left of the aisle" columnist.
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