What comes next, unfortunately, will be all too predictable. There can no longer be any such thing as a tragic accident in our country. We apparently no longer have the ability to witness such a horrific event, learn from it, and move on to simply do things better and try to reduce the chances of similar, future horrors. A sacrifice will be demanded, initially, and it shall be found. Inevitably the first goat led to the alter will turn out to be some low to mid-level functionary from the City Engineering department or something similar. This person will invariably turn out to be a regular chump who worked for the department for the last dozen years, gets up every morning, kisses his wife goodbye, wonders how he's going to pay for his son's college tuition and his daughter's wedding in the same year, and trudged off to work at the city offices. This disaster will spin his world upside down. He'll be struggling to coordinate disaster management, pondering where the money will come from to rebuild, and then... the phone rings. And rings. CNN is on the line wanting to know if he feels personally responsible. An attorney for the newly formed "Victims of Atrocious Government Abuse and Neglect" will politely inform him that they need an appointment to discuss the impending court actions.
And the lawsuits will begin. The functionary above won't be the real target, of course. He doesn't have deep pockets. He'll probably take some sort of beating and lose his job, but the real target will be the government because everyone from the families of the actual victims to the people who were traumatized by driving past will be there with their hands out, confident that somebody owes them several million dollars and a summer home in the islands.
But that's not the only blame to be laid... not by a long shot. Pundits, bloggers and analysts (all with an ax to grind) will be climbing on board before you can blink twice. Who is really to blame for this? What forces were at work, unseen, while we slept unaware? Were there terrorists involved? Was anyone from CAIR (a favorite target of the right wing in the Midwest) anywhere near the bridge recently? How about the responsible parties from our own government? Was there some transportation authority person left over from the Clinton administration (Clinton!) responsible for the inspections of this bridge? Did Democrats in the state government once vote against more funds for infrastructure maintenance and repair?
And don't think the Left won't get in on the act. Did Bush appoint somebody to FEMA in that territory who will botch the recovery effort? Is the TA authority a Bush appointee? Would the bridge not have collapsed if the damned Republicans hadn't squashed our efforts to slow global warming and the CO2 in the atmosphere causing acid rain which ate into the bridge's supports?
When I first began pondering what to write in this article I had assumed that it would be at least a few days before the Blame Game kicked into gear. Sadly, I was off by a wide margin. It began within hours of the first slabs of concrete splashing into Old Muddy. As Ron pointed out earlier, Mark Fuhrman already wants to start investigating the construction crew for potential terrorists. Capt. Ed predicts a milder response, but says that if there were warnings in previous inspection reports, "expect Minnesotans to demand some housecleaning." And from the left we've already got someone insisting the bridge wouldn't have collapsed if we hadn't invaded Iraq.
Stand by for the lawsuits and finger pointing. Does our infrastructure require constant maintenance and repair? Obviously. Should we spend more time and money on it? Undoubtedly. But such things aren't politically flashy and cost money. Sadly a tragedy like this is probably what's required to get both parties in line to put more effort into this. But the soon to come scapegoating isn't going to change anything.
Update (from Ron)
While Jazz is correct that of the inevitable blame game will do nothing to address the problem it should be pointed out that the Faithful Progressive was only pointing out the infrastructure collapse is being ignored while we pump billions of dollars into the bottomless pit known as Iraq.
Over the past 10 years, there has been an average of one bridge failure in the U.S. every week. Instead of addressing our own infrastructure and shoring up homeland security with increased inspections at our ports etc etc, billions of dollars have been flat-out freakin' wasted in Iraq. Does anyone else see a link between these two stories?
Countdown to the Blame Game II
Ah, the intolerance of the tolerant
Countdown to the Blame Game III