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Bob Burnett

Bob Burnett

Posted: September 28, 2005 07:15 PM

The Politics of Indifference


In "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," Bob Dylan lamented,

"But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Take the rag away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears."

In the disgraceful aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, all Americans saw the results of a Bush morality that some of us had long feared -- the politics of indifference.

Of the many statements made about the destruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the most cogent came from Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, who observed, "Indifference is a weapon of mass destruction." The catastrophe resulted from the politics of indifference practiced by the Bush Administration, the dreadful consequence of a morality devoted to winning and maintaining power rather than to leading the country and defending the common good.

George Bush has been indifferent to the environment, in general, and global climate change, in particular. He has denied the reality of global warming and denigrated the Kyoto treaty meant to address it, "Kyoto... didn't suit our needs... [It] would have wrecked our economy." Yet, the ferocity of Katrina was due to the warmer waters of the Gulf, a consequence of global climate change, a real economy wrecker. The administration was indifferent to protecting the wetlands that should have served as a buffer between New Orleans and the Gulf. And, Bush and company denied the requests for strengthening the New Orleans levee system -- even going so far as to fire Mike Parker, assistant secretary of the Army and director of the Corps of Engineers, when he complained about the lack of funds for this vital project.

George Bush has also been indifferent to America's poor, many of whom were victimized by Katrina. The poverty rate went up again, last year, as it has for year of his presidency. The President doesn't believe in the biblical concept of the benevolent community, the notion that "I am my brother's keeper and my sister's keeper;" he's focused on his elite base, "the haves and the have mores."

On September 20, 2001, President Bush addressed the American people and pledged, "I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield, I will not rest, I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people." Yet as the months passed, Bush shifted his focus to Iraq and became indifferent to real homeland security. He failed to support America's first responders -- local fire, health, and police departments. The Administration did not fix the obvious problems that surfaced during the response to 9/11, such as the failure of communication systems, and these surfaced again during the flawed reaction to Hurricane Katrina. Bush has also ignored obvious threats to the U.S. -- our vulnerable ports, chemical plants, and nuclear facilities.

George Bush has been indifferent to the economy. Responsible CEOs pay attention to their company's finances and strive to keep them solvent, yet the President has lost control of the Federal budget, and let the deficit balloon. Ignoring bipartisan advice that America was too dependent on petroleum and needed to move towards energy independence, the former oilman has stubbornly promoted an energy policy that depends upon fossil fuel. One of the themes that guided U.S. policy in Iraq was the notion that the Iraqi oil reserves would benefit America. The reality is that Iraqi insurgents have steadily attacked the oil infrastructure -- there were more than 230 attacks between January 2004 and September 7, 2005 -- and, as a result, oil output has declined since the invasion; instead of helping finance our occupation, the lost Iraqi oil production is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.

Despite touting himself as America's first "CEO president," George Bush has been indifferent to sound management practice, which advocates having a clear vision, taking responsibility for it, and learning from any mistakes made. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the President doesn't have a vision for protecting America. His reaction before and after 9/11 indicated that he had no intention of taking responsibility for our security, and as a result, America remains dreadfully vulnerable. This is an Administration that refuses to acknowledge mistakes and, therefore, cannot learn from them.

Finally, George Bush has been indifferent to the ethical abuses that have plagued his Administration. The conduct of the war on terror has been characterized by Administration immorality: assassinations, bombing of civilians, and torture. During the past five years, American corporations have been rocked by scandal after scandal -- for example, Enron and WorldCom -- yet, the President has disregarded the executive malfeasance and looting that has taken place during his tenure. He has stolidly ignored corruption in the Republican Leadership -- for example, Karl Rove, Tom De Lay, and Bill Frist.

Forty years ago, Bob Dylan wrote the lyrics that are tragically applicable now,

"Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Bury the rag deep in your face For now's the time for your tears."

Because of the Bush politics of indifference, America is in disgrace. It's time for tears. And action.