Friday, September 2

[Amen to the nth power]

Ezra Klein, a junior at UCLA, putting words and ideas together in ways I only wish I could:

Bush, of course, has been this strange mixture of government growth and administrative incompetence, almost as if he's running a kamikaze mission to prove the Republican case against government. But conservatives, generally, are all for the private market and individual charity. If Bush really was so uncomfortable with government involvement, he could still do a bang-up job relying on his church/industry connections to create a parallel and powerful rescue effort. The government could take care of the basics, but the private and theological spheres could provide much of the material, cash, and space. In doing, Bush would help discredit Big Government and legitimize the conservative philosophy.

He hasn't. And that he's hasn't demonstrates his basic absence of a driving ideology. He's neither able to effectively deploy government or call on his friends outside of it. He's just incompetent, as I said before, a small man in a big office. He speaks the language of small government conservatism because it gets him elected, pushes big government solutions because they prove easiest, but is so separated and uninterested in the whole enterprise that the result is a wreck of incoherence and unexpected outcomes. So when something like Katrina comes around, he's neither creative enough to deal with it in an innovative way or competent enough to deal with it in the old way. So he just doesn't really deal with it.

My prediction with Katrina, with the last few years generally, is that it's going to help discredit this form of government, and create a yearning for a reformed big government. Americans know their federal administration they pay for should be able to work better than this. They know that, during future crises, it's going to need to work better than this. Someone, probably from the business world like Warner, will gain a lot of traction running on a platform to make government work again, with Katrina and fear of terrorist attacks being the primary arguments for the campaign. The media coverage has settled on a sharp attack against government incompetence and out-of-touch politicians -- seeing Cooper flay Louisiana's Mary Landrieux for being so emotionally off-key may well have been a crystallizing confrontation. Seeing reporter after reporter goggle at Michael Brown's professed ignorance that anyone in the Superdome was uncomfortable means this is breaking through.

Government is failing. They're doing it obviously. And reporters and citizens alike are smart enough to extrapolate that if they failed here, they could do it again during a crisis that their hometown. Bush is discrediting small government conservatism by not mobilizing the private sector and he's highlighting the need for an effective big government to pick up the slack. Mark my words, in 2008 (and, if we're smart, 2006), someone will make Katrina, and the lethargic, dumb government it revealed, the message.


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