Relief efforts are underway in the wake of the thrashing of the gulf coast caused by hurricane Katrina. The scenes from New Orleans and other communities in the area cannot have helped but shock and tug at the heart of any right-minded individual. The scale of the damage is tremendous in human life, livelihood and property.
No matter your political stripe I cannot imagine that anyone thought that the relief effort swung effortlessly into action and was as good as it could have been from day one. Mistakes were clearly made and it is only in the aftermath of the start of the cleanup will we begin to find out when and why these errors were made and importantly, what could have been done differently and who is to blame for the mistakes. We don't know who is to blame at the moment although accusations have already started flying. I think that it will be found that failures occurred at many levels.
If President Bush means that he will personally head the inquiry, or that the inquiry will answer to his office then I think he is making a huge mistake. I applaud that he acknowledges that things have gone wrong and that in due course we need to find out why. I can understand his need to root out the problems; in his position I would demand an inquiry as well, simply because as the highest power in the land the buck stops with him. If something was badly wrong on his watch it is up to him to make it right.
However, whether you blame Bush or not for the cock-up that was the relief effort, you might recognise the mistake he is making now. If he intends to head the official inquiry then he is dooming himself and the US to more political sniping and infighting in the near future. He is opening himself and his administration up to even more partisan attacks since I would imagine that few on the left would trust him to complete an honest investigation. If his investigation finds no culpability for his office, and let us, for the sake of argument at least, assume there is none, no one on the left is going to believe him and eventually a second inquiry will probably be launched wasting more time, effort and money.
If you doubt what I say, then look at it from the other position: imagine if Bill Clinton had investigated his own affair with Monica Lewinsky and the surrounding lies. Do you think the right would have been happy with this?
Hopefully Bush actually intends to set up an independent inquiry and his words have been taken out of context or were the words of a man determined to know what went wrong. If not then he should brace himself as it will just be the tip of the iceberg.