| “They have M-16s and they’re
locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they
are more than willing to do so.” – Kathleen
Blanco, Democratic Louisiana Governor
“But I want to thank the president.” –
Landrieu, Democratic Louisiana Senator
“…you and I are not in a position to make any judgment
because we weren't there.” – Bill
Clinton, former Democratic President
Democrats made these mean spirited and ignorant statements. The
entire country is facing the plight of the people of New Orleans,
coping with the dangers of Republican hell and Democratic high water.
One party is proud of its viciousness while the other claims not
to be vicious but proudly proclaims its willingness to shoot desperate
The degree of Democratic callousness in the New Orleans tragedy
may be shocking at first, but it is actually consistent with the
direction the party has taken for the past two decades. The Democrats
are dying a slow political death. Their inaction and acquiescence
in New Orleans is just the latest symptom presented by a terminal
In the summer of 2005 President Bush’s approval ratings took
a dive. The plunge was not the result of any shrewd political moves
by the Democrats. Iraq is dragging Bush down. His approval ratings
are akin to Richard Nixon’s at the time of his resignation
during the Watergate scandal. The issue that could have catapulted
John Kerry into the White House is rearing its head yet again, but
Democrats refuse to take up the challenge.
Not only do they refuse to fight, but they aren’t shy about
admitting their cowardice. Party leadership boldly states for the
record that they will continue to support a president whose policies
have now become a liability for his own administration. They repeat
John Kerry’s losing talking points as if they were religious
scripture. Hillary Clinton, the likely nominee in 2008, advocates
sending more troops to Iraq. Only one Democratic Senator, Russell
Feingold, has publicly called for a withdrawal of American troops.
The rest make baffling appeals to their fellow Democrats to stay
on the sinking ship. “The smartest thing Democrats can do
is be supportive,” opines former Clinton press secretary Mike
McCurry. It has to be an historic first for a political party
to make a conscious decision not to kick an opposition that is on
In the face of the New Orleans disaster Bill Clinton, still the
party leader, decided to cheapen himself yet again and fetch the
stick when the Bushies threw it. On the same day that the Mayor
of New Orleans begged for help and thousands of refugees told horror
stories of being left to fend for themselves without food, water
or adequate sanitation, Bill Clinton agreed to hang out with Bush
41 and raise corporate cash.
The love fest with the Bushies was a shameful performance. Thousands
of people who couldn’t get out of the city followed directions
to take refuge in the Superdome. They waited on line for hours and
then sat helplessly as the stadium roof didn’t live up the
word “super.” The wind and rain they hoped to escape
came inside. They lived in fear of assault, reused disposable diapers
and urinated on the floor, but the former president had only these
words of comfort:
”So I understand why they're so anxiety-ridden. But they
have to understand, by the time it became obvious that they were
in the fix they were in, there were a lot of other problems, too.”
Clinton could have been worse. He could have bragged about shoot
to kill orders.
If Clinton really wanted to help New Orleans he should have refused
the offer to join the old boys network of former presidents. He
could have been the voice of an indignant and outraged nation. As
a former president he was uniquely qualified to ask why the Department
of Homeland Security kept no one in the Gulf Coast secure. He also
has, or rather had, the unique ability to send Republicans into
a frenzy of rage.
Bill Clinton could have cut short the wait for help with a simple
offer to coordinate the relief effort personally. Dubya would have
stopped looking like a deer caught in headlights and demanded action,
if only to keep Clinton from getting any credit.
Whether the issue is Iraq or hurricane Katrina, millions of Democrats
still live in hope that their party will fight for them. Instead
they are left disappointed and angry after years of electoral failure
New Orleans itself epitomizes the anguish of Democrats. In 2004
it dodged the hurricane Ivan bullet. This city run by black Democrats
only reluctantly opened the Superdome to shelter potential refugees.
Despite the Ivan warning they did not develop an evacuation plan
for the thousands of residents who don’t have cars, the only
adequate means of escape. Their plan seemed to consist of hope,
denial and wishful thinking that major hurricanes would miss the
city and that levees would always hold up.
Republicans won’t suffer when Bush is unable and unwilling
to help thousands of Americans suffering from a natural disaster.
They won’t suffer when he arrives at the disaster scene and
messes up a simple photo-op by laughing and smirking inappropriately
and talking about Trent Lott’s destroyed vacation home.
They won’t suffer no matter what they do because the Democrats
are impotent. If the Republicans fail, the failure will be theirs
alone. The Democrats will only win if by some miracle the Republicans
find a way to do themselves in politically. In the meantime the
Dems are like New Orleans, under water, engulfed by debris, and
unable to answer pleas for help.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in
BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living
in New York City. She can be reached via e-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at freedomrider.blogspot.com.
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