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Following all the news from the Gulf — and all the commentary on the news from the Gulf — has made me think not so much of Katrina as of an earlier disaster — the space shuttle Challenger. And it seems to point to a rather disturbing trend in our national life — the increasing politicization of EVERYTHING. Peter & others can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall very much commentary back in 1986 to the effect that the Challenger explosion was “Reagan’s fault,” or a “political disaster for Reagan.” Overwhelmingly (as I recall) people accepted that for what it was — a terrible tragedy, but also a risk that came with the territory of space exploration.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and if you listened to anyone to the left of Olympia Snowe you’d have thought George W. Bush personally directed the winds and rains of Hurricane Katrina precisely to obliterate the poor of New Orleans. And now, with little-concealed glee, conservatives are pouring it back on Barack Obama — “Obama’s Katrina” (Rove), “political disaster for Obama” (Noonan), and so on.
Out here among the 97% of Americans who don’t live day-in-day-out in the political cauldron, most people are pretty clear that the Big Spill is not really Obama’s fault, any more than Katrina was Bush’s or the Challenger Reagan’s. I’m not sure the “political class” (politicians, journalists, commentatators, think-tankers, bloggers, whatever…), left or right, is doing itself any favors with the rest of the population by trying to spin a political angle on EVERYTHING.