Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Mote in Your Own Eye

The NYT, among the converted, apparently, at last, has this to say:

Throughout his campaigns in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush talked about "the soft bigotry of low expectations": the mind-set that tolerates poor school performance and dead-end careers for minority students on the presumption that they are incapable of doing better. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently that this phrase attracted her to Mr. Bush more than anything else.

It was, indeed, a brilliant encapsulation of so much of what is wrong with American education. But while Mr. Bush has been worrying about low expectations in schools, he's been ratcheting the bar downward himself on almost everything else.


The lack of expectations is evident even in areas where the president is supposed to be deeply engaged. The Treasury Department's hollowed-out leadership structure suggests an administration that is happy to coast along with a gentleman's C for handling the nation's finances. But it has been most graphically, and tragically, on display in Iraq and in the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Four years after 9/11, Katrina showed the world that performance standards for the Department of Homeland Security were so low that it was not required to create real plans to respond to real disasters. Only a president with no expectation that the federal government should step up after a crisis could have stripped the Federal Emergency Management Agency bare, appointed as its director a political crony who could not even adequately represent the breeders of Arabian horses, and announced that the director was doing a splendid job while bodies floated in the floodwaters.

Only a president who does not expect the government to help provide decent housing for the truly needy in normal times could leave seven of the top jobs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development vacant and then, after disaster struck, offer small-bore solutions to enormous problems. Substandard wages, an easing of affirmative action regulation and a housing lottery that will help a tiny sliver of people apparently are considered good enough for poor families along the Gulf Coast left homeless by Katrina.

It sounds dead-on and about time. And yet...

Does the New York Times take any responsibility for promulgating such low expectations of the President? After using their own enormous bully-pulpit to build up a wealth of reinforcement for the concept that standing in rubble with a bullhorn shows 'leadership'; that taking on a purely optional war was 'strength'...

I mean, it's nice to see them finally on the side of Truth, Justice and the American Way. But it's the ol' Dry Drunk issue - they're trying to get well without ever admitting that they had a problem.

Expect to see them fall off the wagon soon.



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