After Sept. 11, many people who should have known better argued that it was somehow a vindication of government.
"One of the things that's changed so much since Sept. 11," agreed Vice President Dick Cheney, "is the extent to which people do trust the government -- big shift -- and value it, and have high expectations for what we can do."
Hard to see why he'd say that. Sept. 11 was an appalling comprehensive failure of just about every relevant federal agency. The only government that worked that day was local and state: The great defining image, redeeming American honor at a moment of national humiliation, is those brave New York firemen pounding up the stairs of the World Trade Center. What consolations can be drawn from the lopsided tango between slapdash bureaucrats and subhuman predators in New Orleans?
To be fair, next door, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has been the Giuliani of the hour, and there are many tales of great courage, like the teams from the Children's Hospital of Alabama who've been helicoptering in to New Orleans to rescue newborn babies.The comparison with Sept. 11 isn't exact, but it's fair to this extent: Katrina was the biggest disaster on American soil since that day provoked the total overhaul of the system and the devotion of billions of dollars and the finest minds in the nation to the prioritizing of homeland security. It was, thus, the first major test of the post-9/11 structures. Happy with the results?