WASHINGTON -- It took exactly one month -- until the president's prime-time news conference of Oct. 11, 2001 -- to refute the notion that 9/11 ``changed everything.'' When a reporter said ``you haven't called for any sacrifices from the American people,'' he replied, ``Well, you know, I think the American people are sacrificing now. I think they're waiting in airport lines longer than they've ever had before.'' And that was before the sacrificing became really hellacious with the requirement that passengers remove their shoes at security checkpoints.
The idea that Katrina would change the only thing that matters -- thinking -- perished even more quickly, at about the time Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a suitable symbol of congressional narcissism, dramatized the severity of the tragedy by taking a television interviewer on a helicopter flight over ... her destroyed beach house. ``Washington rolled the dice and Louisiana lost,'' she said in a speech on the Senate floor that moved some senators to tears. You can no more embarrass a senator than you can a sofa, so the tears were not accompanied by blushing about having just passed a transportation bill whose 6,371 pork projects cost $24 billion, about 10 times more than the price of the levee New Orleans needed. Louisiana's congressional delegation larded the bill with $540,580,200 worth of earmarks, one-fifth the price of a capable levee.
America's always fast-flowing river of race-obsessing has overflowed its banks, and last Sunday on ``This Week'' Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois' freshman Democrat, applied to the expression of old banalities a fluency that would be beguiling were it without content. Unfortunately, it included the requisite lament about the president's inadequate ``empathy" and an amazing criticism of the government's ``historic indifference'' and its ``passive indifference'' that ``is as bad as active malice.'' The senator, 44, is just 30 months older than the ``war on poverty'' that President Johnson declared in January 1964. Since then the indifference that is as bad as active malice has been expressed in more than $6.6 trillion of antipoverty spending, strictly defined.