When in Doubt, Blame Bush

Los Angeles lost its electrical power the other day, and within minutes Jesse Jackson said President Bush’s racism was at fault. Maureen Dowd got off some cutesy one-liners about limited government limiting civilization. Michael Moore likewise worried that starving the government had enfeebled it. And, Democrats called for an investigation.

Yes, this particular blame barrage came to me in a dream, but although it’s not real, it’s hard to imagine Jackson missing any opportunity to call an official a racist _ that being his role in life, his profession, his calling. Still, people of normal sensibilities might be surprised that he said racism kept the federal government from coming to the rescue as quickly as it should have in New Orleans. After all, he had no evidence. But little things like evidence _ or the fact that some well-off whites were among the hurricane’s victims _ have never stopped him.

Now, the Rev. Jackson is actually saying it’s racist to call those blacks who left Louisiana seeking refuge in other states “refugees,” and I agree: Stop using that ugly epithet this minute. Once you get started down that road, the next thing you know you will be calling them people in need of help, or something like that, and pretty soon all kinds of other ugly things might ensue. Right?

Dowd, sassy as ever and beaming with joy over her derision of Bush as someone who did not send enough funds to keep New Orleans’ levees in shape, said _ or surely contemplated saying _ that she was far from “shocked” that Bush did not have enough “juice” to keep the lights on in Los Angeles, because after all, he was always “in the dark.”

She might have gone further except that someone may have tapped her on the shoulder to tell her the facts about the money for the levee. Bush proposed spending as much over the past five years as President Bill Clinton had in his last five years, reporters have noted.

The New York Times columnist may have wanted to say that more money for California energy would have saved the day, but that the war in Iraq had impeded domestic spending. In a piece on New Orleans, she said emergency money had been “depleted” by that “folly,” overlooking the fact that domestic spending has soared under Bush.

Michael Moore of moviemaking fame would naturally want to jump into the question about LA losing power because LA is a place where he is a hero, widely appreciated by celebrities for his Bush bashing. In a hurricane-related piece on his Web site, he gave an example of that sport, sounding a Dowd-like note in expressing concern about politicians “whose main goal has been to de-fund the federal government,” pointing to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an example of what could be good for America if it had more money.

FEMA’s problem _ besides having a now-resigned boss who was unqualified for the position _ was not that it was too lean a fighting machine, but that it had been stuffed inside an overly large, super-fat bureaucracy where it’s hard for anything to get done.

That’s the sort of thing a bipartisan investigation might disclose after New Orleans has been put back together, but it’s questionable that the Democrats seeking such an inquiry are nearly as interested in getting to the truth as in making the hurricane a continuing embarrassment for Bush. From the mouths of people like Jackson, Dowd and Moore, we have a taste of the kinds of bloated claims that actually get in the way of facts that appear to be bad enough without exaggeration or ideological contortion.

If leftists were really pouncing on Bush for the LA blackout, you can bet they would shut their eyes to its real cause, the accidental slicing of a cable, just as they are now refusing to identify the chief culprits in the muffed response to the hurricane: the New Orleans mayor and the Louisiana governor. Not just their careers, but the lives of those two public figures will now be defined by a horrid reality that they had a difficult time accepting. The left would like to have the New Orleans disaster define the Bush administration, too, but while the administration covered itself with faults more than glory, the tale the left is trying to convey is largely false.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)