Remember the Children's Crusade known as the Coalition Provisional Authority? Sure you do. They were the good-looking, whip-smart, thoroughly inept young guys 'n' gals for whom reconstituting the newly-invaded Iraq was a total freakin' goof, a lark delivering both a paycheck and some desert cred they could wave in the face of Cardwell and Persiflage and all their other chums at the dinner parties back in Georgetown. And, of course, a noble exercise in service, okay? Something between an Outward Bound session to placate Dad so he'd (finally) buy you the S-Type, and a summer camp production of Kismet.
From Thomas E. Ricks' definitive Fiasco:
No clear strategy, very little detailed planning, poor communications, high personnel turnover, lots of young and inexperienced political appointees, no well-established business processes," concluded retired Army Col. Ralph Hallenbeck, who worked at the CPA as a civilian contractor dealing with the Iraqi communications infrastructure. Personnel was an especially nettlesome issue. Hallenbeck said that in addition to being young and inexperienced, most of the young CPA people he met during his work as a contractor were ideologically minded Republicans whose only professional experience was working on election campaigns back in the United States.
Is it coming back to you? It's been five years, so take your time. Or try this: "Heckuva job, Brownie."
Ring a bell? The Arabian horse guy in charge of making sure people stepped over the dead bodies as they left the Superdome?
This -- the military referring to C.P.A. as meaning "Can't Produce Anything;" New Orleans citizens drowning in their attics while FEMA chiefs try to get each other on the phone -- is what you get when you get Republicans in government.
When a party that only believes in politics but doesn't believe in governing ends up with power, you get catastrophe, scandal, and corruption. You get career government people trying to do their jobs, thwarted by Young Republicans for Self-Dealing; you get serious professionals in, say, the Justice Department hamstrung and fired by well-connected Regency University grads who don't "believe in" evolution; and you get thousands, if not millions, of innocent shmucks -- in Louisiana, in Iraq -- endangered, abused, and sometimes killed.
Now comes Gustav, timed as though by God His Own Bad Self to coincide with the GOP convention in Minneapolis. There is talk that the Republicans will adjust their festivities to turn the event into a telethon, to raise money to help the sure-to-be-devastated region.
Perfect: On Labor Day, the Party that hates Labor and demonizes the very idea of labor unions, turns to the population whose wealth it has funneled up to the already-wealthy. "We're the party of millionaires and billionaires. Won't you give us money we can give to those poor people whose homes we've somehow been unable to rebuild in three years?"
Still, while Gustav's arrival as the Ghost of Katrina Past delivers a certain literary satisfaction, we cannot help but sense that something's missing.
Where is our new Brownie? Where is the next monumental insult to the idea of competence in the public sphere? We, the public, are a poor old battered wife: we feel that, unless the Republican Party isn't smacking us around (and then blaming us for it), it doesn't love us any more. To whom can we turn for the next round of abuse?
We turn, like the feller sang, North! To Al-asss-ka!
Here comes John McCain (hear, or at least read, his theme song here and Who's That Girl?
Why, that's Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: huntress, mom, beauty queen, former mayor of a town whose entire population of 9,000 could fit in Dell Diamond (2003's "Best Double-A Ball Park in the Country") with 2,000 seats left over, and so on. Nice lady, perky, mooseburgers, hockey mom, creative with the kids' names (Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig--the only gang of siblings in the U.S., if not the world, whose first names sound like a law firm), and a purebred Republican, from her desire to teach creationism in schools to her role at the center of an ongoing criminal investigation into the abuse of power of the Governor's office.
What's she up for? Like, Labor secretary?
That's right: For Veep.
It is, as usual with these people, to laugh, and then to shoot the self in the head. If all being V.P. meant was pretending to preside over the Senate and going to funerals, it would be one thing. But she'd be understudy to a leading man who is already 72 and hasn't yet been subjected to the brutalization of the office (with a Congress run by the opposite party, yet).
Not to mention the cancer, the medical history print-out longer (if you can imagine such a thing) than Infinite Jest, and the fact that some Pacemakers, it turns out, can be hacked remotely. (Seriously. Cf. Of course, McCain doesn't wear one. Yet.) As Chris Kelly said elsewhere in these pages, McCain is twenty-two years older than the state of Alaska itself.
It is plain to everyone who is not a Republican propagandist, apologist, or true believer, that Sarah Palin is grotesquely unqualified to be one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
And that's what makes her the Woman of the Hour. That's what makes her the next Brownie. That's what makes her the latest, and perhaps greatest, (willing) human sacrifice to the drooling GOP god of Political Expediency.
Or, no, sorry, that's not quite correct. We're the sacrifice. "We" meaning, the U.S. of A., our government, the institution which, theoretically, at least, we empower and pay taxes to, to serve and work for us.
Not that McCain will be elected. But if he were, and if he were then to suffer some medical misfortune, we're the ones who would suffer. Sarah Palin wouldn't suffer. She'd be the President of the United States, if you must know.
Watching her campaign -- or even just stand on a stage -- with McCain will be a study in archetypal imagery, evoking everything from Anna Nichole Smith and her Crypt Keeper hubby to all those scenes, from Columbo to Monk, in which the doddering elder tycoon is led shuffling around the mansion by the sexy young nurse with a calculating gleam in her eye (and a hot, blue-collar boyfriend/husband waiting impatiently back home).
Join us, then, as we stroll down Memory Lane this week. Gustav is coming to remind us of Katrina. President Bush will speak Monday night to remind us that George W. Bush actually was once President of the U.S. And Sarah Palin will be front and center to remind us of Brownie, and of the sorority sisters and frat rats sunning and funning in Baghdad for the CPA, and of every other country club crony, campaign contributor, legacy hire, lobbyist's son and loyalist's "niece" and church-group nitwit inserted into a public office at your, my, and the nation's expense.
Cross-posted at What HE Said.
For more coverage, go to the Huffington Post's Hurricane Gustav page