News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Blaming Bush for weather takes politics a bit too far

President Bush is responsible for all the world's ills.

Sept. 11, 2001? His fault.

The starvation of millions of Iraqi children? His fault.

Prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad? The London bombings? Toilet-clogging Korans? Militant North Koreans? You've got it. All were his fault.

And in recent weeks, we are told, President Bush has added three more failures to the list.

It turns out, according to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., that our president's failure to sign the Kyoto Protocol limiting ozone-destructive gases caused Hurricane Katrina.

His failed energy policy, according to Mr. Kennedy, also caused the Iraq war by increasing our oil dependency.

And one more, we hear from others. Mr. Bush killed hundreds and maybe thousands when delays prevented governmental officials from responding as quickly as necessary.

As Mr. Kennedy said with the directness and simplicity that some confuse with truth, "Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and — now — Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children."

We like a good political row as much as the next guy, but this is getting silly. As the president hugged a child in New Orleans — yes, we know, just a media event — we could not avoid remembering President Bush's strength after the World Trade Center attacks.

President Bush has been our leader through two of the worst disasters in U.S. history. He has been rubbed raw watching people, whom he wanted to protect, die and worse. Neither catastrophe was his fault, not by the most extreme stretch of the imagination.

We need to remind ourselves that sometimes tragedy points no fingers. Hurricanes have caused pain and loss since long before the development of a political system in which the job of one party is to blame the other. The same murderous evil that triggered the Sept. 11 attacks has existed since Cain slew Abel.

Those hurricanes of antiquity killed on their own. No one was to blame. Cain's moment of evil was spontaneous, not scripted. He was the actor, and he was to blame. Nobody else.

An unfortunate trait of humans, a trait that precedes even Cain's lapse, is the desperate desire to point blame. Adam blamed it on Eve. Eve blamed it on the world's first scapegoat, which happened to be a snake. Primitive civilizations blamed hurricanes on angry gods, a conclusion quite rational compared to placing the blame on a single, tired man. A tired man who has served us honorably, if not perfectly.

Confronted by a cascade of competing ideas on how best to lead the United States, someone has to make decisions. Very few of those ideas are patently wrong.

There were reasons to believe that invading Iraq was wise, even if it turned out not to be. Refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol, while possibly not the best decision, was a rational one.

Intelligent people have lined up on both sides of most political debates, but somebody needed to make a decision. So Mr. Bush did so, for indecision is worse than a faulty decision.

History will long debate whether Mr. Bush was a good leader or bad. Clubbing away at him like a broken piņata may feel good at times, but it is a hobby that creates strife and little else.

Recognizing the president's strength in the face of calamity is not a sin. Noticing his personal courage as he walks among possible assassins does not violate any political covenants. Admitting that his tears may be the real thing is not a disservice to the Democratic Party.

Mr. Bush has confronted hell and not looked down.

It would be a good thing if Mr. Kennedy and the rest of us could remember that fact before announcing to the world we could do better.

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