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To Those Who Voted for Bush: Do You Get It Now?
September 6, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
Here's something I don't understand. The golden goose was about to lay another 9/11-type golden egg for Bush & Co. to pick up. And they didn't.
Surely, Karl Rove, who had seen Bush's approval ratings drop to all-time lows, knew days ahead that a Category 5 Hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans and a calamitous disaster was likely to unfold there if and when the levees were unable to hold back the water. What better way to improve those ratings than for Bush to be photographed the day after the disaster struck, standing on top of debris, bullhorn in hand, vowing that the government would help Gulf Coast states rebuild from the Katrina catastrophe?
But none of that happened. They bungled their own political resurrection. Nearly a full week went by, while thousands were dying and starving or were kenneled in unbelievable filth in New Orleans. Nobody seemed to be in charge. Bush remained on vacation in Crawford, and traveled around to fundraisers, played golf, etc. Condi was buying expensive shoes on Fifth Avenue. What was going on? Did Karl Rove not understand the significance of what was happening? Was Bush... uh... "incapacitated?" What about Cheney, on vacation in Wyoming; was he "incapacitated," too? Are the Bush people really that politically obtuse?
So here's the question I have for those of you who voted for Bush in 2004: do you get it now?
BUSH GOES AWOL, AGAIN
For the past four years, progressives and moderate-conservatives have been pointing out how incompetent this administration is. Many Bush Republicans accused us of making up such accusations for purely political reasons. Now you yourself can see what we have seen: these guys are in way over their heads and haven't got a clue; they're constantly having to come back at a problem in hopes of getting it right the second or third time around.
Of course, that means they're always playing catch-up, which means they're always too late. Take this Alice-in-Wonderland comment made by Bush a week after he went AWOL - again - when his country needed him: "In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need."
Those at the royal Bush court lead such isolated, circumscribed lives that when a disaster strikes, they are so far removed from the circumstances in which regular people find themselves that they simply don't understand the magnitude of what's happening out there in the real-world. You may remember that Bush's first response to the Asian tsunami was silence, and then a grudging, piddling amount of aid was offered; it took the international community shaming him for his unfeeling miserliness before his handlers began to change Bush's tune and he finally pledged genuine aid commensurate with the enormity of the catastrophe.
Our earlier assessment of the administration as bumblers was based mainly on the disaster that Bush & Co. made, and are still making, in the Persian Gulf. But now the whole world gets to see, up close and personal, the thorough botch they made, and are still making, in the other Gulf, in New Orleans and its environs.
THE IRAQ BOTCH
In Iraq, they launched a war based on lies and deceptions, had no plan for what should happen after the major military fighting ceased.
They turned away Iraqis from participating in the reconstruction of their own society, preferring to award the multi-billion-dollar contracts to huge American firms like Halliburton and Bechtel. They disbanded the Iraqi army, leaving hundreds of thousands of young Iraqi men unemployed and angry. They insultingly refused aid and advice from the United Nations and their former allies, wanting nobody to interfere with their Occupation. They didn't have enough troops, and the correct troops, in place to police the post-war phase. They didn't guard the abandoned ammo dumps, and then were surprised when those munitions were used to blow up U.S. soldiers.
They finally, a year or two late, realized that the U.S. was engaged in a guerrilla-style war against nationalist insurgents, along with some foreign jihadists, and started to change their military strategy. But it was too late, and insufficient, to make much of a dent. Now the U.S. is involved in a stalemated, Vietnam-like quagmire; steady streams of flag-draped caskets make their way back to the U.S., and thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians continue dying as well.
And still Bush cannot bring himself to answer Cindy Sheehan's simply question: "For what noble cause did my son have to die?"
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Now in 2005, a natural disaster occurred that everyone predicted - including the government's own emergency-response specialists - and that was warned about days before Hurricane Katrina hit. But the administration's response was non-existent. Or completely beyond belief: Bush actually told Diane Sawyer, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breech of the levees." Read your experts' frickin' reports, man!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - which Bush basically turned into a stripped-down, underfunded subgroup buried in the Homeland Security Department, focusing on anti-terrorism measures rather than on emergency-management - is led by an bumbling political appointee, Michael Brown, someone with no experience in this field, and it showed; for example, neither he nor Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff were aware there were thousands of refugees in the city's Convention Center until Day 5. Don't they watch TV?
Brown was a buddy of one of Bush's Texas pals, with a history in show-horses. That's the man in charge of FEMA. And, believe it or not, Bush the other day thanked him publicly for doing such a "heck of a job." Oh, by the way, guess which company has been awarded the contract for reconstructing New Orleans? Yep, Cheney's Halliburton.
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin hit the nail on the head about Bush's belated promise to send 40,000 troops into his city. "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something."
Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents - those mostly too poor to have been able to evacuate the city - were herded into mass structures like the Superdome and Convention Center, locked inside, and then no government agency provided food, water, medicine, sanitation care, removal of the dead, etc. Those who wanted to leave those horrific shelters and cross over a bridge to dry land were prohibited by armed guards from doing so.
Many of those residents complained that the thousands of citizens there were treated worse than dogs in a kennel. It was a circle out of Dante's Inferno. Indeed, so atrociously were the victims treated in those facilities, prevented from leaving by armed troops, that even right-wing Fox News reporters Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera were appalled on the air, just trying to get viewers to understand the enormity of the hell-on-earth scenes they were witnessing. Rivera was crying and screaming to "let these people walk out of here... just let them leave." (You've got to see this powerful video of Shepard and Rivera live on air - reality-journalism at its best.)
DON'T BE POOR OR POOR-AND-BLACK
The fact that the great majority of those seeking refuge and rescue were African-American, and that no help came in the first five or six days, spoke volumes about the "compassionate conservatism" supposedly animating Bush's administration. Try to imagine how fast the federal government would have mobilized to reach an upper-class compound filled with thousands of well-do-do white people, with access and influence. You get the picture.
Speaking of pictures, two comments:
1. Bush flew into New Orleans to have his picture taken for public-relations purposes. At one location, he spoke at a food-distribution point, which disappeared shortly after the photo-op. It was a set! Various other photo-ops likewise were organized that were equally as unreal. For more, see "The Potemkin Photo Op."
2. No doubt you've seen the way two virtually identical photos of hurricane survivors were captioned in local newspapers. In one, a white man, up to his chest in water, with some groceries in his hands: "...found food at a local market." In another, same scenario, but a young black man: "...looted food from a supermarket." Both were trying to survive and bring some form of sustenance back to their children and families. One "found" food, the other "looted" food.
Interestingly, when after Baghdad fell we saw the video pictures of Iraqis looting stores and museums and such, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said: "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens."
Now the governor of Louisiana is talking about "shoot-to-kill" orders against those who, facing starvation from a non-caring government, are taking food from abandoned, flooded-out grocery stores. And right-wing, let-them-eat-cake pundits blame the mostly black, poverty-stricken residents for "choosing" not to evacuate New Orleans, as if these cashless folks should just have jumped in their non-existent cars or boats and headed out of town. Of course, FEMA or the military could have supplied the buses and trucks and trains to take out the trapped, but apparently there were no such contingency plans and/or nobody with any brains was in charge to get the mass evacuation organized.
A REVERSE-MIDAS TOUCH
But let's move on from America's perennial, always-just-below-the-surface racism and hits-on-the-poor. The point here is that George W. Bush has a reverse Midas touch. Whatever he involves himself in as a leader winds up in FUBAR land. (If you don't know what those letters stand for, ask someone in the military: F---ed Up Beyond All Recognition.)
It happened with his botched oil-company ventures at Arbusto and Harken Energy in Texas; it happened, and is happening in Iraq; and now it's happening with regard to the Katrina disaster in Louisiana.
Except this time there's no wealthy family friend, or Saudi prince, or British prime minister, to bail Bush out of his difficulties. He's out there all by his lonesome, exposed for all the world to see as the emperor with no clothes, a figurehead leader with no emotional or intellectual wherewithal to deal efficiently and correctly with anything beyond the most simple scenarios. Introduce complexity into the equation, and he's a deer in the highlights of reality.
So... what to do? While Rove & Co. ratchet up the ol' spin machine - and try to find others to blame for their own gross delays and mistakes - Bush's normal allies are abandoning him, right and left and right. Business Week, Washington Times, newspapers around the country, conservative pundits David Brooks and Newt Gingrich, retired military officers, and so on - they all can't believe the idiocy and deadly cluelessness of their GOP hero.
They all realize that this incompetent, way-over-his-head guy has three more years on his contract, and he's likely to take down the economy, political structure, and everything else with him as his administration self-destructs in an unholy mess. In short, the Bush administration is not good for business, which CEOs and others are finally starting to realize.
LEAVE OR BE PUSHED
Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Chertoff and the others simply have got to go, along with the other fools and criminals down there in his bunker. Bush and Cheney either must be encouraged by GOP powerbrokers to resign, or they must be impeached.
They each took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution and all American citizens. They have shredded the Constitution - in the name of "anti-terrorism," they have denuded the Bill of Rights - and they have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of protecting the citizenry, either in Iraq or here at home.
Indeed, they have, for their own partisan purposes, revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent - a crime that according to President George H. W. Bush is "traitorous"; indictments are expected shortly against key Bush administration officials involved in this case. In addition, the administration has "disappeared" American citizens into the military gulag, away from contact with lawyers or their families. This is the behavior of dictators; when it happens in African or Latin American countries, we are outraged. Folks, it's happening right here.
You and I, no matter for whom we voted in 2004, need to stop these incompetent fools from doing even more damage, and get this country back on its moral track, run by leaders who have something else on their minds other than power-hunger and take-the-money-and-run.
They should go voluntarily right now, in the best interests of the country. If they don't choose to go, it's long past time for impeachment hearings to begin and for local prosecutors and grand juries (perhaps in New Orleans parishes) to start their own investigations and indictments, and not depend solely on Congress for accountability-reckoning. That's the message that needs to go out from all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to our legislators.
I can't express it any better than Aaron Broussard, the president of New Orleans' Jefferson Parish. Here is what he had to say on Meet the Press..
We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. ? Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership. It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now.
Bernard Weiner has authored more than 150 articles and essays about the Bush administration since 9/11/01. A Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at various colleges, was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. To comment, contact email@example.com.