Back to our regularly scheduled hyperpartisanship
Now that the Roberts Supreme Court nomination hearings are underway, mayhem continues in Iraq, and everyone seems to be blaming the other side for the Hurricane Katrina disaster, we are grudgingly obliged to reengage in the political polemics that reached an apex in August and then took a brief vacation. (Must we? Yes!)
The death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist makes the confirmation of John Roberts, now designated as Chief Justice, much easier, because no one wants to start a new Supreme Court term in October with no one in the leading role. That ought to satsify conservative activists who were outraged by the compromise over the "nuclear option" in the Senate last May. In any case, Roberts is by all non-ideological accounts an ideal candidate, so the real fireworks will begin when the replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor is named. Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy assesses Robert's comparison at today's hearings between the role of a judge and a baseball umpire. Neither job is as straightforward as you might think.
Another front in the ongoing War Between the Parties centers around the President himself. The Left cannot restrain itself from the urge to exploit any passing tragedy for the purpose of venting hatred toward our nation's duly elected chief executive. The deranged hysteria of scribes such as Maureen Dowd has barely changed at all since the last election, but most Americans seem sensible enough not to pay much attention to such fringe views. What about my own overall assessment of Bush? I've made clear my reservations about his lack of skills in rhetoric and management, as well as his troubling eagerness to promote his social conservative agenda via activist government. I pretty much agree with the assessment of Glenn Reynolds:
Bush is, in my estimation, adequate as President, but not much more. I've thought that all along -- which is why you've never seen the kind of lyrical praise of Bush here that once appeared at Andrew Sullivan's place, or the kind of disappointment with Bush you see at Sullivan's place now.
His comment was in the context of the recent drops in Bush's approval ratings. Since I work with the Republicans, you can either take my evaluation as influenced by party loyalty or as a foolhardy gesture of dissent. In my own view, I'm just trying to be honest. The bottom line for me is that Bush is on the right course in two crucial policy areas: a firm, resolute stance in the war against Islamic extremism, and a determination to nominate more conservative judges.
Michael Brown resigns
No surprise there. I sure hope he had accomplished a lot for the Republican Party in Oklahoma for all the discredit he brought to the Bush administration. Now can we all agree on one thing? Don't put political appointees in charge of a vital agency such as FEMA!
Will Mayor Ray Fagin or Governor Kathleen Blanco resign next? Probably not. Josh Marshall has been harping at Bush and the Feds incessantly, while making excuses for the failures of the local officials. Today Rush Limbaugh replayed the whispered comments of Governor Blanco (who didn't know the mic was live) in which she expressed to an assistant regret for not requesting military assistance more promptly. On Meet the Press yesterday, Mayor Fagin was utterly flummoxed by Tim Russert's queries about the failure to use city and school buses to get the poor folks out of town on time.
Sure, here was lots of buses out there. But guess what? You can't find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down [sic] on New Orleans.
Maybe more drivers would have shown up for emergency duty if they had been told that their job was on the line. Just a thought. The mayor said he had no knowledge of AMTRAK's offer to evacuate hundreds of people as Katrina approached (see Washington Post), which if true suggests an inexcusable breakdown in communications within the city government. His only regret was in assuming that the Federal "cavalry" would rescue his city. That is a crystal clear expression of the shamelessly irresponsible dependency on bailouts from Uncle Sam engendered by the welfare state mentality.
UPDATE: Rebuild or not?
In the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post, urban planning expert Joel Garreau lends support to Majority Leader Dennis Hastert's ill-timed remark last week that there is no point in rebuilding some parts of New Orleans. He notes that the "crescent" along the Mississippi where the city originated -- the French quarter, parts of downtown, and the posh Garden District -- are virtually the only tracts of land above sea level. Much of the rest was a swamp in its natural state, and can only be kept safe and dry through massive expenditures of public money. Who is to say whether it's worth it or not? It's too early to be talking about long-term plans, but comparing New Orleans to Pompei, as he does, is stretching things a bit.