The fires in southern California are still burning out of control in some places. People are still fleeing in advance of the inferno as the blaze has consumed nearly 2,000 homes and threatens thousands of others. A billion dollars in damage so far and there is no relief in sight for the residents and officials who are living this nightmare.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the left, trying to score political points off of tragedy. This time, a couple of right wing pundits have chimed in, to the approving nods of some conservatives who have learned well the lessons of Katrina; it’s never too early to blame someone for nature’s handiwork.
Thousands of our fellow citizens are sitting in shelters not knowing if they have a home to go back to. Firefighters from all over the west and beyond are exhausting themselves to save lives and property. Federal, state, city, and local officials are working around the clock, doing everything they can to alleviate suffering, battle the numerous fires threatening the area, doling out assistance, and planning for the aftermath.
But none of this matters at the moment. Instead of doing everything we can to support these efforts, leaving the finger pointing and political gamesmanship until a decent interval has passed and life has returned to some semblance of normalcy for the afflicted, the professional bomb throwers on the right and the usual suspects on the left (almost everybody) are gleefully throwing around baseless and unproven charges of culpability.
They are enlisting the destruction of people’s lives in their battle to prove one thing or another about the President, or Republicans, or Democrats, or the War, or environmentalists. And for the left’s part, they are employing the age old political tactic of raising the spectre of race and class warfare; that the rich, white residents of San Diego County are being helped in a more timely and significant manner than the poor, black residents of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
First of all, anyone who tries to draw parallels between a Hurricane and a fire is an idiot. Hurricanes tend to be somewhat wetter than fires for one thing. Secondly, the fire is not blocking access to the shelters in the city or other designated areas so that help can get where it is needed when it is needed in a much more timely manner.
Beyond that, I found this analysis interesting:
In addition to the reverse-911 system, authorities shut down schools, halted mail delivery and urged people to stay home and off the roads if they were not in danger.
Another factor separating these fire from other disasters has been wealth. Unlike many of the poor neighborhoods flooded by Hurricane Katrina, the hardest-hit areas in California were filled with upscale homes, with easy access to wide streets. Less wealthy areas â€” including rural enclaves and horse farms that stretch through the mountains east of San Diego â€” benefited from easy road access and small crowds.
The authorities didn’t wait to evacuate citizens from endangered areas. And apparently, wonder of wonders, the city of San Diego had a disaster plan and is sticking to it! Amazing what happens when you actually follow a carefully laid out plan rather than wring your hands wailing “Whoa is us” and go on the radio, blaming your incompetence on the racism of others.
Police roadblocks are preventing wide scale looting – not even residents are allowed back into areas no longer threatened until they can be protected. As far as we know, there have been no mass rapes of babies at Qualcom Stadium where around 10,000 residents have sought shelter. No murders or suicides there either that we’ve heard about. Food, water, and the amenities all seem to be plentiful at the moment.
In short, the difference between the fire and the flood is night and day – partly as a result of the competence of local officials but much more so because the two types of disasters present different types of challenges that are taking place in a different part of the country in different settings (densely populated urban area vs. the more open suburban/rural setting of southern California). Anyone who tries to draw some kind of parallel between the two tragedies or posit some race or class reason for the differences can safely be dismissed as agenda driven screwballs. There’s no “there” there.
But this hasn’t stopped the left from trying for a Katrina repeat. And this time, the right got the drop on the left as far as the race to politicize people’s agony.
Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have made comments trying to blame the left in some way for the tragedy. Beck’s point about the environmentalists opposing the clearing of brush and the deliberate setting of controlled fires may or may not be a valid point. But couldn’t it wait until after the disaster had been dealt with and all people and property were safe and secure?
Similarly, the lefty blogs have been full of comparisons to Katrina, intimations that the response to the tragedy is “proof” of racism and class differences, and the idea that if only we weren’t fighting the Iraq War, the National Guard could have prevented all this or, as Bill Richardson puts it, “Where is the National Guard?”
Today, as the fires rage, California has National Guard men, women, and critical equipment thousands of miles away in Iraq.
Richardson gives us a twofer in his article, reminding us that the entire reason so many died in New Orleans and why this fire is still burning is because of the War in Iraq.
I liked him better when he was lying about his Minor League baseball experiences.
There’s no evidence that the National Guard in California would be making a difference if the units serving in Iraq were here at home. But that won’t stop the left from making the argument anyway. Nor will they wait until the tragedy being experienced by the residents in southern California has passed before trying to score their political points with the public.
It didn’t used to be like this. No one would have dreamed of trying to politicize tragedy prior to the presidency of George Bush. But we’re in a different political ballgame now with no boundaries and few rules to live by. So we can expect this kind of idiocy from both sides from now on.
Both sides should be ashamed of themselves.