*I’m currently traveling the country talking to people about politics and why they vote the way they do (or not):
We left Salt Lake City on Saturday and are now in Montana (let me know if you have any contacts here or suggestions for interviews). We stayed in Idaho Falls, Idaho on Saturday night and interviewed a few people in the Wal-Mart parking lot about the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the fourth anniversary of 9/11. Here are excerpts from yesterday’s random interviews:
Dorothy Bischoff, 63
What do you think about the government’s response to the hurricane?
I think it was very, very slow. It’s sad. Those people didn’t have any food for how many days? Five, six, seven days. Not good.
Why do you think it took so long?
I don’t know. Lack of communication.
It’s the fourth anniversary of 9/11 and we’ve spent a lot of money on homeland security. Do you think the Bush administration has done enough to prepare the country for natural disasters and terrorist attacks?
No, I don’t. I think we’re really way behind where we should be, especially after 9/11 and I like Bush. I voted for Bush, so I’m not against him, but this is unacceptable behavior. He really messed up on this one.
Does this change your overall opinion of him?
No, I still like him. He just messed up on this.
What do you like about him?
I don’t know. I’ve just always liked him.
Amanda Blake, 25
What do you think of the government’s response?
Amanda Blake: People were without food and water for days and I think the government should have done more to help them. The National Guard was in Iraq and as far as I’m concerned, they’re a state militia and they should have been there to help them.
Dianne Watts: I agree, but I also think we didn’t get any insight into the other side of the story. What about the people who were actually prepared for the hurricane? We got one side and not the other.
Amanda Blake: It’s just like Iraq. They tell us about all the bad and the bombings and the car bombs, but my husband is over there and they’ve built five schools and helped hospitals open. He tells me these things, but otherwise, you don’t hear about that stuff.
Where is he?
Amanda Blake: He is in Northern Iraq somewhere. He never tells me where because it’s confidential.
How long has he been there?
Amanda Blake: Since last Thanksgiving.
Do you know when he’s going to come home?
Amanda Blake: Supposedly, in December. That’s what the rumor is.
Have your opinions about the war changed since he’s been there?
Amanda Blake: No. I don’t think they have. He knows he’s doing the right thing and as far as I’m concerned, if he thinks he’s doing the right thing, that’s what I think, too.
Do you think the Bush administration has done enough since 9/11 to prepare for natural disasters and terrorist attacks?
Amanda Blake: No, I don’t think so.
Dianne Watts: I don’t think they’ve taken security seriously. All the publicity about the airports and security is just publicity. I think we could do a lot more. The people don’t take it seriously. If somebody really gets hurt in this country, then maybe they’ll take it more seriously, but it’s a joke right now as far as I’m concerned.
Amanda Blake: Like I said, I think the state militia is for the state. The National Guard were in Iraq and now they’re coming home and they have nothing to come home to.
Are you both Bush supporters?
Dianne Watts: Was. When they say his approval rating has gone down, I’d have to be part of that. I thought he was doing a really good job after 9/11, but he’s too much of an oil man. His politics have changed and it’s just getting to be more about the politics than the good of the people.
Did you both vote for him?
Dianne Watts: I did.
Amanda Blake: I didn’t vote because I wasn’t here.
Is there any one major event that changed your mind?
Dianne Watts: It’s just the day to day. He’s just slowly not paid enough attention to home in my opinion. No big thing. His interest is gone from what our welfare concerns are here.
Deedee Sant, 59
What are your opinions of the government’s response to the hurricane?
It’s such a horrific tragedy. They should have been prepared. I think they could have gotten in there a little bit faster. I’m glad the man who was in charge of FEMA isn’t in charge of it anymore. I think the president should have gotten to it a lot quicker. It’d be nice next time if they did, but they seem to always have to go through the bureaucracy again.
It’s been four years since 9/11 and the government’s spent a lot of money on homeland security. Are we prepared for disasters?
No. I don’t think that homeland security has done much of anything. I go to Portland on the plane all the time and the security here in Idaho Falls is OK, we don’t need much, but you go to Portland and it’s a big joke. It doesn’t do anything. Not one thing. I think it’s something to make the people think they’re doing something, but they’re not doing anything. The thing that gets me about the airports is that you go in there and they randomly go through your luggage or randomly go through people’s shoes and if they’re gonna do it to one, they oughta do it to everybody. How do they know? They oughta do it to everybody to do it right.
Have your opinions of the Bush administration changed over the past four years?
When he first got in, I had high hopes for him and I really quite liked him, but then he got in overseas and the big battle. I hate to say this because I had high hopes for him, but I think he’s a big warmonger. I think he went in there and the only thing he had on his agenda was to finish the job his father didn’t finish over there. They got Saddam Hussein and that’s all great, but I sit around and wonder, what’s happened to Afghanistan and bin Laden? Nothing has been done.
Did you vote for Bush?
What makes this area so Republican?
Because most of the state is predominantly LDS (Latter-Day Saints) and they tend to vote Republican. They’re very conservative or so they thought. I don’t think going to war is conservative.
Tell me about this town. How have things changed over the years?
Idaho Falls is growing really fast. Our medical community has just skyrocketed. The housing industry has gone crazy. Gas prices have gone through the roof. It’s hard to keep up. When the gas prices go up, everything goes up. It’s hard. It’s very hard. I’m on an extremely limited budget and like most everybody else around here, not everybody, but the majority of the people. It’s tough.
What message would you send to the candidates who plan to run in the next election?
I hate to be a pessimist, but I think the government, both Republicans and Democrats, are so corrupt and they’re out for one thing and that’s them. I don’t think the majority of them care for the people and what we want or need. I think all they get in there for is the money and they make it. They don’t have to pay for things like we do and everything we pay for seems to go for their three martini lunches and on and on. I just think they’re out for themselves. I don’t think they give a hoot about anybody.
Do you always vote?
No, because most of the time when I do, it’s the lesser of two evils and there aren’t any lessers anymore. It makes you sit back and wonder, what’s the point? That’s a rotten way to feel, but personally, I think the last good President was Eisenhower. You’re probably way too young to remember him. I was just a child, but this country was coming out of a war and he was a great, great President as far as I was concerned. This whole country was very family oriented and the whole economy was building up and it was a great time. I fear for my grandkids. It’s scary.
What do you do?
I am a CNA at a retirement home here in Idaho Falls.
So you see the reality of what’s going on.
Oh yes, I do. You bet I do. It’s a hard profession to be in, but I love the elderly people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be there. They’re really fun. They put things into reality. They’re sweet people and I think we owe them more than they get. So many people go in there with what they think is gonna be enough money to get them by and in a couple years, it’s gone and then they have to go on Medicaid and it’s sad.
Bonita Frye, 59
What do you think of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina?
I think it’s a poor area and even before the hurricane came, they did not prepare the people. These people need help. They need jobs. They need money. It’s just awful to me. I don’t think our government has done what they should be doing. Instead of sending money to Iraq to fight Saddam Hussein, we should be taking care of our country. That’s the bottom line.
Do you think the Bush administration has done enough to secure the country?
I don’t think it’s any more secure today than it was before 9/11. I mean, look at the borders. If people are crossing the borders and they’re not doing anything about it, what does the word illegal mean? I think we need to take care of home first and that should be the priority. I never did figure out how they went from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein. It was kind of like, well, we can’t get bin Laden, so let’s just pick somebody over there.
Did you vote for Bush?
This are is dominated by Republicans.
It is. That’s why I’m outnumbered. (laughs) I’m not so much really a Democrat or a party voter. It’s the agenda and how they talk about what their proposals are going to be. I really think that they are letting a lot of things go because they really want to take our civil rights away from us and that’s what the whole Patriot Act is all about. Taking our rights. We’re over there trying to give those people in Iraq freedom and they’re taking our freedoms away. I don’t understand that. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Is the opinion around here changing at all?
There are a lot of people like me. It’s kind of like we flock together. The people that are Republican flock together and you’ll find that the majority of them out here are Republicans. They’re just party voters. It doesn’t matter if it was Hitler. They would still vote for him and back up everything he does and I’m not that way. I’m more about the American people and surviving. A lot of people say, oh well, those blacks down there, you know, too bad for them. They could have gotten out. No they couldn’t. They are living below poverty down there. These people don’t even have vehicles and how can that be in this country?
What about this area? What do you think people need to know about Idaho Falls? Has it changed much over the years?
There aren’t enough jobs. We’ve outsourced everything. I was just recently back in Missouri and everything is all about restaurants and I see this happening here. We don’t have any factories. If you’re out of a job, you’re out of a job. There are a lot of people here that are out of jobs and this community does try really hard to take care of a lot of the needy people, but then you’ve got a lot of people who are just too selfish. They’re just too interested in themselves.
What do you do?
I retired from the Postal Service after 35 1/2 years. I could have worked another five or six years and I thought, you know what? I’m scared to death that he’s (Bush) going to pull out on civil service retirement so I want to enjoy a little bit of it. We need to get jobs back and I think Bush’s plan was to have the war and do like Roosevelt and boost the economy. Well, that was OK because back then we had factories. That’s not working today because we don’t have anything here that’s made in the United States anymore. All we have is restaurants.
Do you always vote?
What message would you send to the next set of candidates?
Number one, I’m pro-choice and I’m pro-gun. I think we need to worry about America first and worry about the foreign aid later, especially hunting down somebody in some foreign country. I think we need to upgrade our military. I mean it’s pretty sad when we’re sending off National Guard to fight a war. The National Guard is supposed to protect the United States. People in the Army are being mistreated and they’re dropping out of the military because when they come out, they’re not getting what they’ve been promised. We have to really look at some real positive things here regarding the survival of America because at the rate we’re going, we are going to be a bankrupt country that is going down the drain like a third world country.
What did you think of the government’s response to the hurricane?
Ludean: I think the government sometimes doesn’t listen to what people who are knowledgeable tell them. There’s such a bureaucracy and everybody is afraid that they might be responsible.
Verla: As far as the hurricane goes, they should have had buses to get them out, especially the older people. I think their response was pretty slow.
Do you think the Bush administration has done enough since 9/11 to prepare for disasters?
Verla: No, they haven’t done enough. It’s all for show. I’m not a fan of Bush. He’s got that smirk on his face that I’ve never liked.
Ludean: I think he’s been very ineffective overall. I think he did the wrong thing when he went to Iraq.
Verla: It was for the wrong reason. I think something had to be done, but I don’t think he handled it the correct way.
So I take it both of you didn’t vote for Bush?
Verla: I didn’t and this is a very Republican state. I can’t say I’m one or the other definitely, but I lean towards the Democrats.
Why is that?
Verla: I don’t know, because I’m poor. (laughs)
Do you both vote?
Verla: Oh yeah.
Ludean: You bet.
What advice would you give to the next set of candidates?
Verla: Be more honest and truthful because I don’t think we’ve had an honest president for a long time.
Ludean: Listen to what the people say, not just the advisers. Of course, we realize it takes money to run a campaign and they have to listen to some people.
Verla: I don’t think they’re hearing the voices of the people.
What issues are important to you?
Verla: For retired people like we are, we haven’t had a bad time ourselves, but we’ve prepared and saved and so we hate to see things cost so much more because we have a limited income and have no way of making more money because at our age, you can’t go out and get a job.
Ludean: Currently, I think the president and his advisers have not been on top of the situation as far as the price of gas goes. Obviously gas is going to go up, but I think it should have been monitored and companies are gouging. Of course, his social security ideas are just way off base.