The disastrous federal response to Katrina exposes a record of incompetence, misjudgment and ideological blinders that should lead to serious doubts that the Bush administration should be allowed to continue in office.
When taxpayers have raised, borrowed and spent $40 billion to $50 billion a year for the past four years for homeland security but the officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot find their own hands in broad daylight for four days while New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast swelter, drown and die, it is time for them to go.
When funding for water works and levees in the gulf region is repeatedly cut by an administration that seems determined to undermine the public responsibility for infrastructure in America, despite clear warnings that the infrastructure could not survive a major storm, it seems clear someone is playing politics with the public trust.
When rescue and medical squads are sitting in Manassas and elsewhere in northern Virginia and foreign assistance waits at airports because the government can't figure out how to insure the workers, how to use the assistance or which jurisdiction should be in charge, it is time for the administration to leave town.
When President Bush stays on vacation and attends social functions for two days in the face of disaster before finally understanding that people are starving, crying out and dying, it is time for him to go.
When FEMA officials cannot figure out that there are thousands stranded at the New Orleans convention center - where people died and were starving - and fussed ineffectively about the same problems in the Superdome, they should be fired, not praised, as the president praised FEMA Director Michael Brown in New Orleans last week.
When Mr. Bush states publicly that "nobody could anticipate a breach of the levee" while New Orleans journalists, Scientific American, National Geographic, academic researchers and Louisiana politicians had been doing precisely that for decades, right up through last year and even as Hurricane Katrina passed over, he should be laughed out of town as an impostor.
When repeated studies of New Orleans make it clear that tens of thousands of people would be unable to evacuate the city in case of a flood, lacking both money and transportation, but FEMA makes no effort before the storm to commandeer buses and move them to safety, it is time for someone to be given his walking papers.
When the president makes Sen. Trent Lott's house in Pascagoula, Miss., the poster child for rebuilding while hundreds of thousands are bereft of housing, jobs, electricity and security, he betrays a careless insensitivity that should banish him from office.
When the president of the United States points the finger away from the lame response of his administration to Katrina and tries to finger local officials in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., as the culprits, he betrays the unwillingness of this administration to speak truth and hold itself accountable. As in the case of the miserable execution of policy in Iraq, Mr. Bush and Karl Rove always have some excuse for failure other than their own misjudgments.
We have a president who is apparently ill-informed, lackadaisical and narrow-minded, surrounded by oil baron cronies, religious fundamentalist crazies and right-wing extremists and ideologues. He has appointed officials who give incompetence new meaning, who replace the positive role of government with expensive baloney.
They rode into office in a highly contested election, spouting a message of bipartisanship but determined to undermine the federal government in every way but defense (and, after 9/11, one presumed, homeland security). One with Grover Norquist, they were determined to shrink Washington until it was "small enough to drown in a bathtub." Katrina has stripped the veil from this mean-spirited strategy, exposing the greed, mindlessness and sheer profiteering behind it.
It is time to hold them accountable - this ugly, troglodyte crowd of Capital Beltway insiders, rich lawyers, ideologues, incompetents and their strap-hangers should be tarred, feathered and ridden gracefully and mindfully out of Washington and returned to their caves, clubs in hand.
Gordon Adams, director of security policy studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, was senior White House budget official for national security in the Clinton administration.
© 2005 Baltimore Sun