Monday, September 05, 2005

And like lightning, they moved

Oh, what so many Americans wouldn't have given to use that phrase last Tuesday. "Like lightning, the government zoomed into action...." "With unprecedented speed, the Bush administration secured the safety of America's citizens..."

Sadly, we could not. Today, it's with damning, not praise, I type these words:

"And like lightning, they moved."


Karl Rove and his team, that is.

Horrified, the jumped into fast gear.

Alarmed not by the sights and sounds of a drowning New Orleans or her starving poor, seizing and dying under the burning lights of CNN cameras, nor by the sound of a mayor's voice spinning precariously close to the edge of sanity.

'Twas the poll numbers, the Republican Congress members' phone calls that reflected back at this administration what they could not see with their own eyes nor feel with their own hearts - cataclysmic, unforgivable failure resulting in death.

It took outside interference to make them care - and when they did care, the timing proves it was only about helping their sinking approval ratings, not a city sinking into despair.

If only they were as good at anything - anything - else as they are at screwing up and then spinning it into everyone else's fault.

Silly warm blooded human that I am, it never even crossed my mind that the Bush administration would try to weasel and outright lie their way out of something so awful, so decimating. Surely the guilt and shame would eat at them. Guess again.

Click here to see the spin:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050905/ap_on_go_pr_wh/katrina_washington_13


Lest we all forget, and rest assured, the media will try to help us along - Bush was on vacation.

He did not return from his vacation until Wednesday. Monday evening the waters began to rise. Tuesday, Bush was eating cake with John McCain and posing with a 'geetar' for photo-ops. And the waters were nearing 20 feet by then. All of us could see what they could not or would not. Wednesday came the namby-pamby promises press conference. But by Wednesday afternoon, most Americans saw a city in the throes of death. Why didn't he? Or did he just not care. Was it a day of rest after a long, arduous vacation?

And since I've been writing and crying, yelling at the tv, crying and writing, you, my kids, pets and half the neighborhood already know where I'm at. But MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who did not know, is apparently mentally visiting the same place today:



But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.


Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been — as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be — whether or not I voted for this President — he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government — our government — "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.


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