Richard Cohen’s back from summer vacation and also, like the Dickerson column in the previous item, makes a connection my CNN-clogged brain couldn’t — John Roberts and Katrina. And it’s not what you think. It’s mostly about the uses of failure, what an early face-plant can do for a young man’s world view. Here’s the connection part, and it comes late:
Failure has its uses. Among other things, it can teach us about the human condition. It took a certain kind of cold arrogance to come up with the evacuation plan that New Orleans devised: Get everyone out of town. But what about those who could not get out of town? What about those with no cars or those already living on the streets? In other words, what about the very poor?
The poor? It’s as if the idiots up and down the line never heard of them. It’s as if no one at the top of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or at the White House knew they existed. Check that. They knew, but it was theoretical: Oh, they’ll manage. The thinking was summed up in the sorry remark of Barbara Bush while she was visiting flood evacuees at a Houston relocation site. Since the refugees sent to Houston were poor to start with, she said, “this is working very well for them.” Madam, bite thy tongue.
If I had a vote in the Senate, I would not deny it to Roberts based on his lack of tough times — nor, for that matter, would I have granted one to Clarence Thomas, who had plenty of them. But when it comes to civil rights, to women’s rights, to workers’ rights, to gay rights and to the plight of the poor, I would prefer that Roberts had had his moment of failure. He will lead one branch of the government. I wish he knew more about all of the people.