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Bush's Last Laugh

June 8, 2010

Somewhere in a gated community in Dallas, a former President of the United States is laughing very hard right now. A new ABC/Washington Post poll gives the Obama administration even lower marks for its response to the BP oil spill than to George W. Bush's calamitous bungling of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. And so it is that the man who led a government of the oil men, by the oil men and for the oil men is getting the last laugh regarding the disaster that his aides Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett among others claimed ruined his presidency.
Republican politics have long counted on duplicity and amnesia as its two guiding principles. First, you can fool some of the people some of the time - and that's their target market. Second, the GOP counts on Americans' short memories. Both dynamics are apparently in play in the new polling data:

A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane...
There's partisanship in views of the federal response, with Democrats less critical of the Democratic-led government. Nonetheless, even among Democrats, 56 percent rate the federal response negatively. That rises to 74 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.

That finding followed similarly dismal survey results from CBS last week:

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said the Obama administration should be doing more in response to the spill, while 28 percent believe the government is doing all it can. BP scored slightly worse - 70 percent feel the company should be doing more while 24 percent believe it's doing everything possible to contain the crisis...
Forty-four percent of respondents disapprove of the White House's handling of the spill, with 38 percent satisfied with the government's response.

For George W. Bush, the ironies are as sweet as they are painful to Barack Obama. After all, Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster which killed over a 1,000 Americans, one for which the federal government was the only responder and before which the Bush administration had days of warnings that "MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS." (Bush, who days after laughably claimed, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees", last year insisted, "don't tell me the federal response was slow.) In contrast, the Deepwater Horizon explosion that suddenly killed 11 and poisoned the Gulf of Mexico was a man-made catastrophe resulted from corporate malfeasance and nearly a decade of regulatory neglect. Worse still, BP alone supposedly had the resources, technical expertise and legal responsibility to manage the hemorrhage of oil it produced.
Nevertheless, the Republican Party and its media accomplices moved quickly to label the BP disaster "Obama's Katrina." But a month ago, even the AP, whose "analyses" generally reinforce Republican talking points, debunked that one:

While the Obama administration has faced second-guessing about the speed and effectiveness of some of its actions, a narrative pieced together by The Associated Press, based on documents, interviews and public statements, shows little resemblance to Katrina in either the characterization of the threat or the federal government's response...
The AP review found that the administration - aware of the political scars left on the Bush White House over Katrina - moved early with rescue efforts. Also, the government knew within days that while no leak had been found, the potential for environmental harm existed.
From day to day, as the situation evolved from devastating fire and dramatic rescue to a possible environmental hazard, the response activities changed, too, according to documents and interviews.

Alas, perception trumps reality. And the most bitter irony of all is that that perception is being manufactured by a political party whose pet industry is responsible for the devastation now being lad at President Obama's feet. As the Center for American Progress thoroughly documented last week, the BP disaster is "Cheney's Katrina." President Bush, Tom Delay and Congressional Republicans pushed through the secret Cheney energy plan, virtually gave away U.S. oil leases, loosened regulations on offshore drilling and perverted the federal agency overseeing it, all while breaking Bush's promise to "jawbone" OPEC into lowering prices.
And now that the Gulf of Mexico is being killed by an almost inevitable oil disaster, the party of "Drill, Baby Drill" and its media echo chamber tell us, it's pretty much all Barack Obama's fault.
But just in case there was any doubt, the conservative echo chamber is adding insult to injury by proclaiming Deepwater Horizon like Katrina a "natural disaster" even as they call for more offshore drilling. On Monday, FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe comically announced, "I think what you have to look at is when there is a natural disaster like this we do expect our government to do some things and to do them well." Last week, Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole declared of the spill, ""acts of God are acts of God." That followed by a month the pronouncement by Rick Perry, George W. Bush's successor in the state house in Austin, that:

"From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented."

Meanwhile in Dallas, Bush is looking at the new polls showing Americans are more critical of Obama's BP response than his own handling of Katrina. And he's laughing his ass off.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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