Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bush Hearts the Coast Guard

(photo from September 2 photo op)
Brian Williams interviewed Prez Bush aboard Air Force One. He asked a question on whether racism played a role in what happened in response to Katrina. Bush replied "Do not call me a racist." He went on to say that Katrina hit MS hard and people need to remember that. Then he said this...

"I remember saying that ah when I thanked those chopper pilot drivers from the Coast Guard who performed brilliantly, they didn't lower those booms to pick up people saying what color skin do you have. They said a fellow American is in jeopardy and I'm going to rescue that person."

This isn't the first time that Bush has invoked the imagery of the Coast Guard. He used them for a photo op on Friday September 2 (BTW the "chopper drivers" were diverted from rescue missions for this) He also cited them almost at the top of his Jackson Square speech. He pulls out the Coast Guard often and for good reason. There is a general belief that the only agency that responded with success in the Katrina tragedy was the Coast Guard. "Basically, the Coast Guard was one of the only success stories coming out of Katrina," said Alane Kochems, a national security policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation.

So of course Bush wants to plant that success in the people's minds rather than all the miserable failures we watched play out on tv. However Bush had NO role in that success. In fact the success of the Coast Guard is attributed to the fact that they are quite autonomous and as CBS News reported "That is why the Coast Guard succeeded. Unlike many other federal agencies, the Coast Guard was able to cut through bureaucratic red tape with a simple philosophy: Act first and get permission later."

Time magazine explained it further...
In fact, the Coast Guard has no primary mission--and it may be its eclectic history that explains its success in dealing with Katrina.
But perhaps the most important distinction of the Coast Guard is that it trusts itself.
That kind of decentralization is essential if a large organization is to move quickly, as any good CEO knows. But the rest of the government has been moving in the opposite direction, centralizing dozens of agencies into the giant DHS bureaucracy.

On the Gulf Coast, this autonomy and flexibility mattered well before Katrina hit. On Aug. 27, the day before the mayor of New Orleans ordered a mandatory evacuation, the Coast Guard began moving its personnel out of the region. Officers left helicopters and boats in a ring around the area so that they could move in behind the storm, no matter which direction it took. "We have extraordinary autonomy to move assets," explained Allen during a flyover of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region a few weeks after Katrina. "I don't think any other agency has the ability to do that."

The only ones who have a right to take credit for the success of the Coast Guard is the Coast Guard which acted on its own initiative. Yet I am sure Bush will continue to conflate the Federal (ie Bush) response with the Coast Guard's in the way he does with 9/11 and Saddam. When you hear it in the future just remember it for what it is....Bullshit. And I most certainly know the Coast Guard isn't racist but I don't believe Bush can stand on them to claim he's not.

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