Hey folks — for what it’s worth, this piece of mine ran today at WorkingforChange.com. Nothing profound, but it does reflect the visceral disgust I think a lot of people feel when watchingg the Katrina video. Enjoy (or not)…
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In junior high, a particularly aggressive jerk named Rickie Smith told me he was going to kick my ass.
Then, he kicked my ass.
I had no idea it was going to happen.
But more importantly, I kept up a false bravado to our classmates, both before and after the well-attended brawl. And my own little secret was that yeah, getting punched out hurt a little bit, but, truly, I didn’t care whether Rickie Smith kicked my ass or not.
And there my fighting career ended, 0-1.
I don’t think George Bush cared whether the levees broke or not, either. You know, the ones guarding a major American city from catastrophe?
God, am I tired of having my country being run by an eighth-grader.
In the video, released this week by AP, from a day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, a crowd of hurricane and disaster experts – including, yes, “Brownie” – are seem warning the President of the United States that Katrina could dwarf Andrew, that New Orleans’ levees could break, even that the Superdome could turn into a disastrous place to house storm victims. Poor Michael Brown (now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d use) even calls it “the Big One.”
And what, when faced with the wrath of nature, does the most powerful man in the universe do? No questions – not even for the head of FEMA. No queries about what was standing by or what else might be needed or what contingency plans were in place if the levees did break. No decisions, no orders, just patronizing assurances that it’s all under control and people would get whatever help they needed. And then the most powerful man in the universe turned the lights out and went back on vacation while thousands of people died, many of them due to the negligence and delayed response of the federal government.
How does a survivor of Katrina, now living in Houston or Little Rock or Worcester or Los Angeles, feel when watching that video? Especially if they lost everything? Especially if they still have no idea where their child is? Especially if family members were lost? Especially if their city is never coming back to what it once was?
The grim punchline to the video — beyond all the death and carnage and the inexcusable federal response, that is — came four days later, when the most powerful man in the universe, the one who says he regularly converses with God, got up in front of all the cameras and declared, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” You said a little too much there, George. The sentence should have ended just before the word “anybody.”
,As one might glean from that long laundry list of Bush White House misdeeds I rattled off in my column Wednesday, everything Bush does, after five years in office, is now part of familiar patterns, and this is no different. Bush had no idea. Just like he had no idea massive tax cuts for the wealthy would run up massive, record federal deficits — even though that’s exactly what happened when Reagan did it. Just like he had no idea that bin Laden was planning to strike, soon, on U.S. soil, even though his August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (delivered, again, while Bush vacated) carried that title and invoked hijackings. Just like George had no idea anyone in the employ of the U.S. government would employ torture, even though he reportedly signed a secret Executive Order authorizing it. Just like he had no idea Iraqis would fight back and an invasion would tear their country apart, even though millions of people around the world, including his own father, warned him. Just like he had no idea who Jack Abramoff was, even though he met him two dozen times and took hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money from him.
Does George Bush care about anything other than power and his own political fortunes? (And, of course, the less ethereal fortunes of the backers who have made his power possible.) Forget ideology. Has there ever been this inept a president in this country’s history? Has there ever been this negligent — criminally negligent — a president in this country’s history?
When the head of FEMA is bracing for “the Big One,” he doesn’t call the mayor and ask, “Ray, everything under control”? He calls the President, the most powerful man in the universe, the man who with a few orders and signatures can mobilize unimaginable resources in a matter of minutes.
Bush didn’t. And for agonizing days, while New Orleans flooded and thousands drowned and many thousands more begged the world, on camera, for shelter, food, water, and safety, the entire federal apparatus under the command of one man went about its business and then went home and watched the disaster unfold on the evening news.
And then, not only did Bush try to shuffle off blame with his levee comment and the White House insistence that it was really the fault of local (Democratic) officials, but for the next six months all that promised federal relief and assistance has turned into a quagmire of Republican cronyism and broken promises. Everything, to these people, is about sound bites in service of power and enriching friends.
You know those insipid hagiographic videos invariably shown of nominated candidates at the political conventions, just before they drag their families on stage and speak to the adoring crowd? In 2008, the Democrats should skip that video and instead air one that is nothing but a montage of eight years of people anticipating bad things that Bush had no idea about. Even when he was told. By his own people.
Don’t worry. George won’t mind. You see, he’s got a little secret of his own. He’s already rich. He’s a lame duck. And he didn’t care whether history kicked his ass.
And there his presidential career will end, 0-1.