You cannot predict the wind. You cannot predict the precise place a hurricane will hit. But you can predict the duties that come after. You can predict the work that must be done.
And the problem with the very necessary analysis of what went wrong with the response to victims of Hurricane Katrina is that we live in America, where we've made it impossible to talk about how to protect each other as Americans without raising our divisiveness first, riding it like horses, with our red or blue flags raised higher than our red, white and blue one.
If we don't take politics out of the discussion and look instead at how local, state and federal officials failed in New Orleans, we will not respond more effectively next time.
And the only people excited about our continuing chaos and inability to have a discussion are those who would potentially harm us more, not with natural disasters but with man-made ones.
We look silly for refusing to discuss what went wrong for fear of political fallout.
Forget the next election.
If we can't take a look at how current officials and agencies are doing or not doing their jobs, despite having billions of dollars to do it, then we do ourselves a disservice that could cost us dearly.
Let's put a moratorium, for just the few weeks or months it takes to right our world, on political sniping. Forget being Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. Tell the Ann Coulters and Michael Moores to take a day off while we fix the country.
President Bush has had his election; he is the president, whether you find him capable or not. And the bottom line is that any patriot in America can note publicly whether he is callous or misguided or painfully unaware.
This is not a blame game. This is not a GAME. Hundreds of people are dead, and the man appointed by the president to lead the federal charge failed, not surprisingly since he reportedly inflated his resume and misled the government about his credentials.
Federal officials must review all that without worrying about whether it might cost a Kansas congressman his job.
Forget the impact on the Republican Party. The only thing I've seen in more disarray than New Orleans is the Democratic Party, a party that can't find its mission and has no idea who its constituency is.
So conservatives can stop worrying about whether the analysis of failure will help the Dems.
We in the corporation of America must be able to tell the CEO when he's done a poor job without everyone trying to shut down the company, without fearing his reaction. Bush is not that kind of CEO. And America is not that kind of country.
We cannot predict the wind any more than we can predict terrorist attacks. And we won't get any better at the latter until we stop trying to predict the political impact of a disaster before we determine everything that went wrong.
- Rochelle Riley is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.