Thursday, December 28, 2006

Out of Iraq and into New Orleans

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

While that little slogan was something that I came up with totally by accident (thanks for pointing it out, Militarytracy), it did get me thinking that this really is one of the simplest ways to (1) point out the two most glaring and high impact mistakes of this administration and the rubber stamp republican Congress who supported this administration and (2) highlight two of the most pressing needs (and less controversial than other needs like universal healthcare, etc.) that must be addressed by the incoming Congress as well as any serious candidate for President.

wmtriallawyer wrote a diary earlier today that touched on rebuilding New Orleans and wrote it in a way that would save Bush’s legacy. While we all secretly or not so secretly want to see Bush go down in history as the worst president (or person) ever, that would also somewhat involve rooting for the continuation of his “reverse Midas” policies and another two years of absolute ruin and havoc. This is something that the country and world can hardly afford.

And while 2008 is a long way off, the foundation has already been laid by a number of prominent Democrats – not coincidentally some who have their eye on the White House. Now, at this point, I am not really playing favorites, although I think that Edwards and even Biden (yes, Biden) have a much better chance at showing real leadership of those who are likely candidates – for these reasons alone.

We all have seen how the “sound byte” or “catchy slogan” can go further than the most sane, rational policy. Witness “cut and run”, “flip-flop”, “fighting them over there...” and other gems that have been trotted out by the republicans and this administration to see how far a few empty words can take you. The difference here is that these words are not empty. They are words that are on every true American’s mind.

Also not coincidentally, these are probably two of the issues that I have written the most about over the past year so they are pretty important as much as I am concerned. And whether it is political more than it is genuine, the fact that Edwards made his announcement for his bid for President in New Orleans, or that Biden has come out very strong against an escalation in Iraq as well as having Rice testify before his Senate Foreign Relations Committee early next month.

These are two very simple issues that resonate with just about everyone here in the US. These are also two issues that (1) have impacted tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans in a very negative way, to say the least, (2) are absolute political disasters for republicans and embarrassments to this country and (3) must be addressed in a vastly different manner than they currently are being addressed. On top of these three points, these are probably the two issues that the overwhelming majority of Americans are in agreement on.

Sadly, even New Orleans residents are losing hope with respect to their current situation. According to a recent poll:

Even among the best-off post-Katrina returnees to New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish - those living in houses or apartments, rather than trailers - about one-third say they may leave the area within the next two years, a small poll indicates.

As I diaried last week, the lack of any progress in the Ninth Ward is still an absolute disgrace. Even Mayor Nagin seemed to throw his hands up about the Lower Ninth Ward:
Mayor Ray Nagin, still vowing that the depopulated city will be rebuilt in its entirety, acknowledges that recovery will come in phases and that the market forces, in which his plan places great faith, will first favor the unflooded parts of town and then move to the areas west of the Industrial Canal.

"The Lower 9th Ward will probably be the last area," Nagin said at a forum held at Loyola University a few weeks ago. "That's just the way citizen investment has gone."

While early estimates indicated that it could cost up to $32 billion to rebuild New Orleans, there have been widespread reports of FEMA wasting tens of millions of dollars, trailers going unoccupied and fights between the state and federal officials about who is and is not doing what they should.

Of course, $32 billion SOUNDS like a lot of money (hell, it is a lot of money), we should remember that this little folly in Iraq is costing around $8 billion per month. Even if we still have to spend $1 - $2 billion per month after withdrawal for humanitarian efforts and rebuilding, that is still less than one year’s worth of Iraq costs that could be used to rebuild New Orleans.

I don’t really need to go into all of the reasons why New Orleans should be rebuilt or how many Americans want us the hell out of Iraq – these are very well documented and are frankly both “no brainers”. However, a Congress that addresses these issues and forces these issues to be dealt with will stay in the majority for a long time. And a candidate that takes the lead on these two issues will have fans for many years to come, not to mention a HUGE advantage come 2008.

Out of Iraq, into New Orleans – it even fits on a bumper sticker and rolls right off the tongue.

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