Politicizing Right versus Politicizing Wrong
The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is being used as a political football by both sides. To expect anything less is simply to be ignorant of the way politics are played. I do think it's interesting HOW the parties are using the anniversary, and in what ways.
My Congressman, Henry Waxman (D-CA), has released a report detailing the waste, fraud and abuse in the contracts (many of them no-bid contracts) for cleanup and resconstruction in the Gulf Coast. The facts are striking.
Full and Open Competition is the Exception, Not the Rule. As of June 30, 2006, over $10.6 billion has been awarded to private contractors for Gulf Coast recovery and reconstruction. Nearly all of this amount ($10.1 billion) was awarded in 1,237 contracts valued at $500,000 or more. Only 30% of these contracts were awarded with full and open competition.
Contract Mismanagement Is Widespread. Hurricane Katrina contracts have been accompanied by pervasive mismanagement. Mistakes were made in virtually every step of the contracting process: from pre-contract planning through contract award and oversight. Compounding this problem, there were not enough trained contract officials to oversee contract spending in the Gulf Coast.
The Costs to the Taxpayer Are Enormous. This report identifies 19 Katrina contracts collectively worth $8.75 billion that have been plagued by waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement. In the case of each of these 19 contracts, reports from the Government Accountability Office, Pentagon auditors, agency inspectors general, or other government investigators have linked the contracts to major problems in administration or performance.
This is what Congress exists to do: provide legislative oversight in issues involving federal taxpayer dollars. This is a large part of Congress' mission. Revealingly, the Republicans on the Government Reform Committee did not contribute to this report. Maybe because they don't want to stop the flow of dollars to Republican big business cronies.
The Democrats in the House are using the anniversary of the Hurricane to highlight the mismanagement performed in its aftermath, in the hope that they can reverse it in the future and spend the people's money responsibly while providing help for the devastated victims of the storm and flood.
Contrast that with how Republicans are using the anniversary. They set up an aw-shucks guy named Rockey, put him in a trailer, and drive him up to Washington to get a meeting with the President. Except he's a plant:
Here's what Rockey told the nation just now on TV:
"You know, it's really amazing when a small man like me from St. Bernard Parish can meet the President of the United States. The President is a people person. I knew that from the beginning. I was confident that I could meet President Bush.
And my mission was very simple. I wanted to thank President Bush for the millions of FEMA trailers that were brought down there. They gave roofs over people's head. People had the chance to have baths, air condition. We have TV, we have toiletry, we have things that are necessities that we can live upon.
But now, I wanted to remind the President that the job's not done, and he knows that. And I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us. And I just wish the President could have another term in Washington."
This guy is a symbol of the misery that so many people in Louisiana and Mississippi? If we didn't know any better, this couldn't have been more of home run for Bush if the whole thing had been set up by Karl Rove.
In fact, we had a hunch -- that maybe, just maybe, Rockey Vaccarella had a background himself in GOP politics.
And, whaddya know? Turns out that the earthy Vaccarella -- a highly successful businessman in the fast-food industry -- is indeed a Republican pol, having run unsuccessfully under the GOP banner for a seat on the St. Bernard Parish commission back in 1999.
I remember watching the movie "Wag The Dog" back when Clinton was President (remember when they called Kosovo a "Wag The Dog" scenario?) and thinking how over the top it was, until this crew came into power. And they actually need Dustin Hoffman's character, because they're brutal at covering their tracks.
So Democrats use an event to do their jobs, while Republicans use an event by setting up a fake photo-op designed to blunt criticism.
There's your difference, folks.