Sunday, September 04, 2005

Deep Dark Truthful Mirror

The administration's concerns about damage control, like its concerns about disaster relief, may simply be a case of too little, too late.

As Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser, listened on the sidelines, as did Dan Bartlett, the counselor to the president and Mr. Bush's overseer of communications strategy. Their presence underscored how seriously the White House is reacting to the political crisis it faces.

"Where our response is not working, we'll make it right," Mr. Bush said, as Mr. Bartlett, with a script in his hand, followed closely.

His speech came as analysts and some Republicans warned that the White House's response to the crisis in New Orleans, which has been widely seen as slow and ineffectual, could further undermine Mr. Bush's authority at a time when he was already under fire, endangering his Congressional agenda.

I think it's panic mode at the OK Corral; I think these assholes are finally starting to realize that the whole world's been watching this unfold, and they can't just drop it all down the memory hole like they do with everything else. When one of the biggest talking points on the left the last day or so has been the on-air meltdown on Faux News, of Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera, you know that all the regular Faux viewers saw that too.

And they have to make a decision for themselves now -- whether to continue believing the word of an entire administration that dicked around on vacation and p.r. after the storm hit, or to maybe take the word of the people on the ground there. Unless they need to tell themselves that Shep and Geraldo are part of the VLWC in the media too, which they very well might, if only to keep their heads from exploding.

The last-minute overhaul of the president's plans reflected what analysts and some Republicans said was a long-term threat to Mr. Bush's presidency created by the perception that the White House had failed to respond to the crisis. Several said the political fallout over the hurricane could complicate a second-term agenda that includes major changes to Social Security, the tax code and the immigration system.

"This is very much going to divert the agenda," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire Republican with ties to the White House. "Some of this is momentary. I think the Bush capital will be rapidly replenished if they begin to respond here."

Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale University, said: "The possibility for very serious damage to the administration exists. The unmistakable conclusion one would draw from this was this was a massive administration failure."

And Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, urged Mr. Bush to quickly propose a rebuilding plan for New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, arguing that an ambitious gesture could restore his power in Congress.

"If it's done right, it adds energy to the rest of his agenda," Mr. Gingrich said. "If it's done wrong, it swamps the rest of his agenda."

Yeah, well, not a damn thing's been done right yet. I don't know what makes Newt think that's suddenly gonna change. It's going to take a lot of good faith effort on the part of the administration to undo even part of what has transpired.

And note how the article carefully refers to the "perception" that they failed to respond adequately. Oh yes, it's all in your heads, folks. Those dead babies, those floating bodies, those dead folks slumped over in wheelchairs? Just perception, dear boy.

People saw this [photo from Rigorous Intuition]

while reading about Bush fucking around in San Diego until Wednesday, Cheney holed up in Wyoming until Friday, and Queen Condi taking in Broadway shows and buying shoes on Thursday. These people, to put it quite bluntly, are scum. No amount of harrumphing and obfuscation will change that.

Not that some of them aren't trying their damndest:

2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.

3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.

Um, no one has suggested that Bush called up his bestest friend God and caused the hurricane. What they have rightly pointed out is how his programs drastically undercut and underfunded New Orleans' efforts to protect itself in the event of this eminently foreseeable catastrophe. In the more immediate sense, people have also expressed frustration with Bush for -- for the 800th fucking time now -- dawdling and pimping his political bullshit at a moment when lives really were in the balance, when his countrymen truly needed him to be there for them.

Stein is being willfully disingenuous and intellectually dishonest here (and throughout), and I am immensely disappointed to say I regret that I ever considered him a decent and gracious person. This is beyond the usual tendentious hackery we're all accustomed to; it is truly beneath contempt.

8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.

He waited three days to get started. That is simply inexcusable. Stein certainly wouldn't have forgiven Clinton for such indifference. Furthermore, his mealymouthed attempt to gloss over the logistics of rendering aid is, again, disingenuous. One would think that if they could use all the help they can get, FEMA wouldn't have told the Red Cross to stay out of New Orleans.

One might get the idea that they are more concerned with evacuation and pacification than triage, if one were inclined to make judgments according to observed actions, rather than the usual "feel your pain" boilerplate.

9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.

That's an absolute baldfaced fucking lie, and Stein knows it. 30% of the National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast states are in Iraq. High-water amphibious vehicles were taken from Louisiana's National Guard to dump off in Iraq, where they're pretty much useless except for surfing the Tigris. Quite a few reliable reports have already emerged specifying how the SELA fund, specifically earmarked for levee improvement and maintenance, got hijacked for use in the war.

Stein ends his idiotic tirade with another lie followed by a non-sequitur:

12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.

From our vantage point, the callousness seems to be all at the top echelon. New Orleans' mayor and Louisiana's public officials have all responded passionately, with conviction and purpose. You know when people are defending their homes, and when people are just waltzing through canned photo ops in a desperate damage control strategy.

I don't think I heard anything about Mary Landrieu going shoe-shopping after the hurricane hit.

As for the gratuitous swipe at the right's favorite monster, I'll just say this: during the Clinton years, I liked Hillary even less than I liked Bill. She struck me as a ball-breaking power-hungry diva who didn't seem to realize that people had elected her husband and not her.

And while I am not thrilled with her cynical tacks to the right to position herself for '08, I understand that the game has certain rules. But the bottom line is, I don't think for a second that a President Hillary would piss away 72 hours on useless cheerleading stops while a major metropolitan area was being obliterated.

As for health care, the American health care system is fucked, pure and simple. Would Hillarycare have been some sort of miracle cure? Maybe, maybe not. Would it hurt to give it a shot, rather than force 50 million Americans to choose between health coverage and survival?

At any rate, I couldn't read through Ben Stein's cheap hit piece without feeling embarrassed for him. For such a smart and erudite person, he has chosen to be a lackey and a toady to some pretty disgusting and worthless people. First Nixon and now this slug.

Kevin Drum has a worthy quote from the frustrated Mary Landrieu, as well as a take on how the rest of the world perceives the situation.

What Jon Chait said about Iraq last week is perhaps even truer about New Orleans. The hallmarks of the Bush/Rove governing philosophy — partisan discipline, industry giveaways, and relentless lying — work pretty well as long as you can disguise the results of your policies. When you can't, it suddenly becomes obvious even to your supporters that the emperor has no clothes. It's taken two years for a lot of people to realize that about Iraq. It's taken less than a week to realize it about New Orleans.

UPDATE: Good God. Laura Rozen passes along the following report from a Dutch reader:

There was a striking discrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

This goes beyond stage management. This is criminal.

He's right. It is criminal, it's disgusting and pathetic. I hope Ben Stein and the rest of the dwindling coterie of bootlickers take a moment to ponder the sheer moral cowardice being played out here by their idols.

An even better rundown from abroad is here, from the London Guardian Observer. The whole thing is appalling, but here's a choice excerpt:

'We had to wrap dead people in white sheets and throw them outside while the police stood by and did nothing,' said Correll Williams, a 19-year-old meat cutter from the Crowder Road district in the east of the city, who waded two miles through waist-high water to make it to the Convention Centre after hearing on the radio it was being turned into a refuge.

'The police were in boats watching us. They were just laughing at us. Five of them to a boat, not trying to help nobody. Helicopters were riding by just looking at us. They weren't helping. We were pulling people on bits of wood, and the National Guard would come driving by in their empty military trucks.'

Williams only left his apartment after the authorities took the decision to flood his district in an apparent attempt to sluice out some of the water that had submerged a neighbouring district. Like hundreds of others he had heard the news of the decision to flood his district on the radio. The authorities had given people in the district until 5pm on Tuesday to get out - after that they would open the floodgates.

'We thought we could live without electricity for a few weeks because we had food. But then they told us they were opening the floodgates,' said Arineatta Walker, who fled the area with her daughter and two grandchildren.

'So about two o'clock we went on to the streets and we asked the army, "Where can we go?". And they said, "Just take off because there's no one going to come back for you." They kicked my family out of there. If I knew how to hotwire a car I would have,' Walker said.

Once inside the Convention Centre, Walker confronted a new hell. 'People were being raped, there were cries and screams, there were gunshots, but the police did nothing,' Walker said.

'The police were afraid to do anything,' said Chantelle, a black 22- year-old. 'They wouldn't come in. They took two white guys out one night but left the rest of us in here.'

And on and on. This is untenable -- the republic simply cannot survive in its current state of disintegration. Remember folks, the revolution will not be podcasted.

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