Monday, September 19, 2005
"For generations we have elected men and women based on what they say they will give us, not on their leadership ability." It's nice to see something in print that I believe is the root of the problem, not only in Louisiana, but in all or our government. I've been saying it since President Clinton was running for President. Remember Jennifer Flowers, the state troopers and all the allegations? A much quoted sentiment was that Clinton's private behavior was not important. We were told that only his political record mattered. Everything in me screamed, "NO!" Integrity and leadership are the MOST important qualities in a candidate.
Government is incredibly complex. Candidates may promise all sorts of things and they may be entirely sincere, but when they are actually on the job, things are a lot more complicated. That is why a lot of well meaning politicians end up not being able to deliver on campaign promises. They learn that they have to compromise and play the game if they want to see ANY of their ideals realized. We elect politicians because we want the things they promise, but what is the difference between a politician who does his or her best to be true to their consistency and one who simply promises whatever they think the voters want to hear? For example, I recently read an article saying that Hillary Clinton tried to join the Marines. Hmmm...
I'm going out on a limb and saying that integrity and leadership are just about all that matters in an elected position. "Just about" is the operative phrase. That is, provided that the politician knows how to surround himself or herself with talented people who know what they are doing and have the same kind of integrity AND the politician knows how to delegate and accept advice. If I vote for someone who has this type of character and skills, I can be confident that the best is being done for all of us. I've seen this time and time again in local politics. It is a little easier to see on the local level. I'm a great writer of letters to my elected officials. I always love it when they either call or write back to me with the reasons they felt they had to vote they way they did. Even if I disagree, I admire honesty, integrity and leadership. I can have confidence in that kind of person.
So what happened in Louisiana? There has been an entrenched bankruptcy of quality government for a long time. Don't blame the politicians entirely. It's been said that most people get the kind of government they deserve. That is a huge problem in government today. We have a staggering Federal debt and yet people don't want to vote for a politician who says that they will cut programs that effect us. Right now the Federal government is promising the hurricane victims just about anything they want. Is anyone asking if we can afford it? Who is going to pay for this? Why is this hurricane so different? One man, interviewed by FOX, was contemptuous of the money he had been given by the government. He wanted the government to just give victims $20,000 each and let them get on with their lives. So, we are supposed to give him $20,000 because his ancestors came on a slave ship and he chose to live below sea level protected by a levee system that ought to scare just about anyone? Look at the picture. The man has his arm around a white woman and it's so normal it took me a minute or so to catch on to the caption under the picture. We've come a long way from that slave ship.
I live on a barrier island in Florida. I pay a lot for insurance. I pay more for flood insurance. It has never occurred to me that the government should pay me damages because I chose to live here. The people of the United States don't owe me any thing except maybe basic emergency relief. If I will only vote for people who promise to take care of me so that I won't have to take care of myself, then shame on me.
We have got to start electing politicians that will do what is best for this country even if it means giving up our personal gravy train. We have got to give up this idea of "entitlements." We have to elect officials who act responsibly doing hard things like fixing levees, highways and other necessary things that should be the business of government and not pretty things that put money in the pockets of our friends. We have to help our indigent population with programs that require that they help themselves.
We have to look at the character of our candidates and vote for people who will be responsible with the money we pay with our taxes. Louisiana should be a wake-up call for all of us. The Louisiana government gambled and lost. They broke faith with their people because they didn't do the most important thing that government is charged with. They didn't look out for their citizens and keep them safe and they are compounding the lack of leadership by blaming others for their own shortcomings.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I hate all the blaming! We've all had trying times and wished in retrospect we had done some things differently. Some laws and policies need to be changed, but there is another time for that. I don't think it ever occurred to any of us that so many people would not have evacuated. They've rescued 10,000 people and there are still more! I also didn't realize that there were so many poor, old and elderly who couldn't evacuate. In retrospect, they should have had busses to take the people out before the hurricane, but who knew? I don't think any of us in hurricane areas will make that mistake again. This is the first time a hurricane has hit an area so urban and highly populated. Andrew went through and we all breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn't the heart of Miami or New York or Washington, DC. Our nation's capitol would be an even worse disaster. It is a city of the powerful and the poor. What about the museums? It would be a mess. Who could think of all the variables?
All that blaming keeps me from focusing on all the wonderful things that people have done. I think we should all be so proud of what lengths American people have gone to to help. Focus on Houston and her open arms. Focus on the 15 year old boy who commandeered a bus and drove old people and babies to Houston. Focus on what happened when the full force of the US Government stepped in. Focus on what neighboring states have done. Focus on the prayers and tears of a nation. The outpouring of help is something our nation can be proud of and the grippers and blamers are taking that away from us. When did it get to be this way? I don't remember this kind of second guessing during Agnes, Camille or Gilbert.
I have been watching FOX almost non-stop and I have seen members of the press so effected by what they have seen that they were nearly in tears; and I have seen them doing something about it. So much can happen when we don't take time out to blame. We're all angry about a lot of things that happened or didn't happen, but we knew it was going to be a catastrophic disaster and that is part of what catastrophe means. I'm not aiming this at any of the exhausted, over-stressed people who are in the middle of all this, or the people who are trying to help them. When things go this wrong, we sometimes need people to lash out at. I am aiming it at politicians or special interest groups who take time in a press conference to stir up trouble instead of finding out what else needs to be done. They write articles about everything they see is wrong...even as far fetched as global warming (what caused Galveston or Camille or Gilbert?) when they could use the power of the press to list what we can do in our communities to help. We should all be on the same side...the side of the victims.
I think this is a wake-up call for all of us. It could be called a dress-rehearsal. When the crisis is over and we can sit back and look at what has happened the Mayors, Governors and the Federal agencies should get together and critique the operation. Blaming will get us nowhere. To be very blunt, the Democrats and liberal media who are taking partisan jabs at President Bush and the government are making fools of themselves. Blaming President Bush for the hurricane makes them look like idiots. Did they flunk General Science in high school? Scientists who study hurricanes say that this is just part of a regular cycle. We've actually been blessed with very few hurricanes between 1975 and 1995, but there were plenty of hurricanes in the decades before 1975. Florida suffered from serious drought for several years and the reason was that we didn't have enough hurricanes to replenish the aquifer.
It's embarrassing. Years ago I was a Democrat, but now I am ashamed of the party. I wouldn't want people to know that I am more interested in partisan politics than the plight of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. This disaster needs all of our attention and we should all take note of the people who are sitting back and criticizing instead of helping. I know I am. I want to be a part of a government which is not afraid to look at something like this and say that this response was "unacceptable" and not be afraid to make it right. I am in awe of what was done in 24 hours and I am very proud of it. I hope that the people overseas ARE watching. They saw a situation that got terribly out of hand including the lawlessness and today, in only 24 hours they saw a country rise to meet the challenge in an unbelievable way.
Stop for just a minute and think about what happened in perspective. An area the size of England suffered a double catastrophe...devastation from a strong category 4 hurricane and then the failure of the levee system in New Orleans flooding the poorest sections of the city where about 12,000 residents didn't follow the warning to evacuate. The situation was so dire yesterday that there were questions about ever being able take this city back. In 24 hours incredible progress was made. The Convention Center and the Superdome were evacuated. Lawlessness was brought under control and people were transferred to places where good people were waiting to help them. All of the sudden there is a feeling of empowerment. We can do this. We are Americans. The ones who have will help the ones who have lost everything. We are at our best in times like this. I'd like to see any other country that could have done better.