Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One of the bad consequences of the high-cost low-circulation National Journal's placing its columnists behind a subscription wall is to greatly diminish the influence of Clive Crook, who I think may well be the most intelligent right-of-center writer about America today.

He has been very depressed this fall.

On the Bushies :

WEALTH OF NATIONS: Disenchanted With Politics? Who In The World Is Not? (11/18/2005): [T]he Bush administration continues to watch its approval ratings sink. In last week's elections, Republicans could be observed delicately distancing themselves.... You cannot help but wonder what so enfeebled an administration can achieve in its remaining three years....

Tony Blair is also in deep trouble.... The fact that so many of his own Labor members in Parliament were willing to rebel against him is telling: It means that they think he is on the way out, and sooner rather than later.

German politics is in a state of something close to paralysis... a coalition of the unwilling.... But America, Britain, and Germany all look fine compared with France.... Bush and Blair are both paying a heavy political price for the war. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction... and the costly, bungled execution of the postwar strategy, have bled support from both leaders. Each is tainted by the suspicion of dishonesty.... Both leaders' competence is called into question, too.... [T]he charge of incompetence certainly sticks, and if you go with that line, Iraq falls neatly into place. Next, add the Hurricane Katrina fiasco....

The encompassing theme, if there is one, is powerlessness. In all four countries, people feel that their governments are wrestling with issues that are beyond them.... There are worse things than weak government: Strong government dedicated to (or inadvertently serving) bad ends.... But these are not normal times. All four countries face enormous domestic challenges.... The world faces too many other challenges that will not wait... development... pandemic disease, on international trade and finance, on climate change... implacable enemies who will, one day soon, get their hands on WMD. One of the biggest costs of the misadventure in Iraq is that it has -- to some extent, as yet unknown -- inhibited and disarmed America and its friends in that life-or-death struggle....

The enfeeblement of the Bush administration is a setback not just for Americans but for everybody else as well -- except, of course, for those enemies of the West....

On Hurricane Katrina:

WEALTH OF NATIONS: An America I Never Expected To See (09/09/2005): I more or less made a career of defending American supremacy.... I admire the United States so much... that I am even willing to give the Bush administration a chance to explain itself -- a vanishingly rare thing in the part of the world I come from.... I stand before you this week, having followed events in New Orleans with mounting incredulity, a sad and disillusioned man.

I still find this epic of incompetence -- sustained, systemic, outrageous incompetence -- genuinely hard to believe. If you had told me that the flooding of the city would be followed by day after day of chaos, with officials at every level incapable of any effective action; if you had told me that an uncounted number of dead bodies would be floating in the street days after the levees were breached, while huge crowds of abandoned victims, filmed from helicopters, clamored for food and water, with not a police officer or a soldier or an emergency worker of any kind to be seen; if you had said that as the country watched all of this go on, and on, and on, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency should appear on television to tell open-mouthed news anchors how pleased he was that everything was going so well -- if you had described all of this to me ahead of time, I would have said you were crazy... in the United States? For heaven's sake, it simply could not happen....

And the more one watched and read and thought about this, the more perplexing it became. Because this was no hitherto-inconceivable catastrophe. It had been imagined, it had been foreseen, it had been predicted in detail. It had even been -- or so one supposes -- planned for....

The answer seems to be: sheer incompetence, before and after the storm, at every level of government -- local, state, and federal. I cannot accept that the blame lies solely with the Bush administration.... Everybody you might have expected to be in command -- the mayor, the governor, FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House -- seemed mainly concerned about offering a commentary on the poor performance of other agencies...

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