Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Fox Shouldn't Watch the Hen House

President Bush announced today that he would oversee an inquiry about the slow and deadly response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Doesn't the president have anything else to do? Commanding his lie in Iraq, selecting a new Supreme Court Justice, overseeing his legislative agenda (removal of the estate tax, social security reform, immigration reform...), and manage the mess his administration had a hand in creating by directing the clean up and the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and affected areas are just a few things that come to mind. Why doesn't the president oversee those things?

President Bush overseeing an investigation of why his agencies failed would be an exercise in obstruction of justice. For someone who took 72 hours to return from his vacation and 120 hours before he bothered to take a trip to the region, it is hard to imagine the president conducting a full, open and truthful investigation. Nothing short of a full-blown congressional and independent investigation is warranted and acceptable.

The independent investigation would be warranted and acceptable if it mirrors the commission that reviewed the September 11th attacks. The 9-11 commission was not influenced (at least overtly) by political pressure, as the president's would be, and was comprehensive, objective and bi-partisan.

A commission made up of respected, bi-partisan and knowledgeable individuals created by congressional legislation and approved by the president should review, at the very least, the condition of the levees before the breaches, the history of the protection plans, strategies and reports to protect and evacuate New Orleans, the reasons behind the slow response to New Orleans, Mississippi and parts of Alabama, the impact of poverty on the evacuation order, the impact of at least a 1/3 of affected states' National Guard Units being deployed to Iraq, the impact of budget cuts to FEMA, the Army Corp of Engineers and other important agencies, the impact of moving FEMA to the Office of Homeland Security and whether class and race played a role in the rescue effort or initial lack of response.

To think President Bush would review those items mentioned above, particularly the last, and the countless other issues and concerns raised by the tragedy is comical. Despite some nice rhetoric and some appointments, the President has not followed up those speeches and delegations with substantive policy. The issue of race and poverty may not be on his agenda and there is no reason to guess those issues would appear now.

The president is right to call for an investigation, but is wrong to name himself to head the effort.