September 3, 2005
Last Sunday, a category 5 hurricane named Katrina was heading for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. George Bush, on vacation, mentioned it in passing and then talked about Iraq, while still hiding from Cindy Sheehan.
Last Monday, Katrina, now a category 4 hurricane, slammed into the Gulf Coast, destroying 90,000 square miles, causing hundreds of thousands of Americans to become homeless and probably killing thousands. George was in Arizona and California, talking up his addled Medicaid prescription program before invite-only crowds.
Tuesday? Thousands were stranded down south. 80% of The Big Easy was under water. Bodies were floating everywhere. George was in California, comparing Iraq to WW II…the Big One. You, go there, GI George - the human definition of the word "disconnect."
As the catastrophe simmered in the Gulf like bad Gumbo, Bush woke up, eventually, to , ummm, reality…as much as he can ever wake up and recognize his own unique take on reality. Headline: PRESIDENT CUTS VACATION SHORT TO RETURN TO WASHINGTON. Bush cut his vacation short by TWO DAYS as thousands of citizens down south wandered or swam around in the sweltering heat, with no food, no water, no homes, no way to get out..
What a guy.
This man has to be to biggest mistake ever to get elected (?) in the history of America.
By Wednesday and Thursday, Bush was acting very Presidential which, via his grimaces, resembled a bad bout of constipation. He’d flown over the disaster area (at a comfy 5,000 feet, being photographed frowning and concerned, gazing out the window, as he saw…not a lot) and was going to actually show up by week’s end at the scene…sort of. New Orleans was considered too dangerous still, so he opted for Mobile and Biloxi with a New Orleans aerial tour.
Aside from the fact that, unlike a terrorist attack, this hurricane’s path was predicted four days before it struck. Aside from the fact that this hurricane has proven that Homeland Security is a totally ineffective monolith of an agency, staffed through cronyism. Aside from the fact, that most of this was seen coming for a long time, Dubya exclaimed that the levee breaks in New Orleans took everyone by surprise.
And he expects us to buy that. (Wanna by some WMD?)
The saddest part of all this? New Orleans didn’t have to go out like that, in sorrow and horror and anarchy. The reason it did? Bush’s hard-on for Iraq.
Under Bush’s leadership, federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana has been cut from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005. Federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget sunk from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7 million this year. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu pleaded for $27 million.
No deal. Iraq was more important.
According to Louisiana’s Times-Picayune from 2004 to 2005, Iraq was specifically cited as the reason for lack of hurricane and flood-control dollars. In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Army Engineering Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.
Bush then cut $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
A Newhouse News Service article published last Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana’s coast, only to be opposed by the White House….In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana’s chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."
Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
Hard-hit Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who has been tearful, understandably so, on the airwaves, hasn’t really mentioned his anti-global warming stance or his support of Bush’s slashing FEMA funds or the fact that he backed Bush’s sending an endless supply of National Guard troops and important equipment to Iraq. (Over a third of Louisiana’s troops are in Iraq, over 40% of Mississippi’s.)
Bush, for his part, has been appropriately slow-witted and even more flat-footed in his reaction to this tragedy.
Sunday? As Katrina was about to savage the Gulf Coast? Here’s our Feckless Leader.
"Hurricane Katrina is now designated a category five hurricane. We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities. I urge all citizens to put their own safety and the safety of their families first by moving to safe ground. Please listen carefully to instructions provided by state and local officials.
"On another matter, today Iraqi political leaders completed the process for drafting a permanent constitution. Their example is an inspiration to all who share the universal values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. The negotiators and drafters of this document braved the intimidation of terrorists and they mourn the cowardly assassination of friends and colleagues involved in the process of drafting the constitution."
Thanks for your heartfelt concern, George.
Tuesday? As New Orleans and the Gulf Coast was deemed DESTROYED?
"As we deliver relief to our citizens to the south, our troops are defending all our citizens from threats abroad. In the war on terror, all of you gathered here today are playing a critical role…"
Let’s get aboard that WW II train, full-speed.
"Sixty years ago this Friday, General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. With Japan’s surrender, the last of our enemies in World War II was defeated, and a World War that began for America in the Pacific came to an end in the Pacific. As we mark this anniversary, we are again a nation at war. Once again, war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for. Once again, America and our allies are waging a global campaign with forces deployed on virtually every continent. And once again, we will not rest until victory is America’s and our freedom is secure…
"Our goal is clear, as well. We will defeat the terrorists. We’ll build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary. A free Iraq will offer people throughout the Middle East a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology being peddled by the terrorists. A free Iraq will show that when America gives its word, America keeps its word."
And, bear in mind, people in America were actually drowning during this speech. People were dying of dehydration and lack of medical care. No one knew what to do. Phone lines were down. No instructions could be given. Buildings were crumbling. Hundreds of thousands of people were being forced out of their homes forever. Countless homes were being obliterated, as if hit by an A-Bomb. These facts didn’t register with him until, probably, one of his advisors pointed them out via a well placed two-by-four to the back of his thick skull.
Hurricane Katrina may prove to be the biggest disaster in American history. It took place on Bush’s watch. Eventually, by Wednesday, George snapped to. He forgot World War II. He forgot Iraq for a minute. He considered the dead Americans, present tense, human flotsam floating in the murky flood waters of Katrina. He played President and declared:
"America will be stronger for it."
At this point, some heavy criticism started heading his way. Why was there such a lack of rapid response? Why was the Coast Guard, almost single-handedly, tackling the situation along with brave, under-funded, local first-responders? Why was FEMA folded into Homeland Security and hamstrung? Where exactly was Homeland Security? Why was our rapid emergency response resembling a Ringling Brothers clown car skit?
His response? He paraded out his father and President Bill Clinton, intoning: "In the days ahead, the former Presidents will ask Americans to open their hearts and their wallets to help those in need." (Because this country is bankrupt, thanks to the Iraq plus tax cut combo.)
Later? After talking with his cabinet and a lot of pasty-faced Republicans, he touched on the humanity of the situation, stating:
"We particularly spent a lot of time talking about the damage done to our energy infrastructure and its effect on the availability and price of gasoline.
"In our judgment, we view this storm as a temporary disruption that is being addressed by the government and by the private sector"
Still later, he again touched upon the human loss.
"A lot of crude production has been shut down because of the storm. I instructed Secretary Bodman to work with refiners, people who need crude oil, to alleviate any shortage through loans. The Environmental Protection Agency has granted a nationwide waiver for fuel blends to make more gasoline and diesel fuel available throughout the country. This will help take some pressure off of gas price. But our citizens must understand this storm has disrupted the capacity to make gasoline and distribute gasoline."
Oh, the humanity. The humanity!
And, of course, the oil companies have jacked up their prices of gasoline merely to make a bigger profit. And, of course, we will all have to pay at the pump. And, of course, the EPA’s relaxation of emission standards will heat up the atmosphere and, hence, the oceans even further (talk about "Catch 22."). And, of course, Dubya will do nothing except look concerned before the cameras and vow to stay the course in terms of rebuilding.
(He could roll back his tax cuts to give the economy a boost and not have to request low-wage earners to reach into their pockets across the country to pay for the hurricane mess but…that would be unthinkable.)
So, as hundreds of thousands of people are stranded and are being shuttled out to different states to live in the equivalent of nouveau Hoovervilles? As the bodies pile up? As Americans are all told to give all they can give?
The President appears on the tube and tells us to just hang in there. Whoo-hooo. Go team. In a photo op in Mobile on Friday, Bush basically phoned it in. Confronted by chaos, he returned to his Bible of braying bromides, saying that everything was going to be fine. We should love our neighbors the way we want to be loved ourselves and he talked about compassion. By speech’s end, he seemed to be on the verge of breaking out into "The sun’ll come out tomorrow," from the Broadway musical "Annie."
He later hit Mississippi (hugging a lot) and flew over New Orleans, finally taking to the podium at Louis Armstrong airport and declaring "And may God continue to bless this country."
Um, if this is a blessing? What exactly would you consider a curse?
At a certain point, he was asked by a reporter: "One of the things you hear is people saying a lot of resources are being devoted to Iraq, now this country needs them. And they’re frustrated about that. What do you say to the people who say, there’s too much money being spent on Iraq and it’s time to bring them home?"
The President responded: "I just completely disagree. We’ve got a job to defend this country and the war on terror, and we’ve got a job to bring aid and comfort to the people of the Gulf Coast, and we’ll do both. We’ve got plenty of resources to do both."
Tell that to the dead, George. To the dying.
When asked how he planned to rebuild New Orleans? The President ventured: "My thoughts are, we’re going to get somebody who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to rebuilding cities. I’m going to delegate."
As he’s done for four and a half years and that’s panned out SOOO well.
And our President came up with the perfect way to stop the violence in New Orleans. We have to get the people food, he declared. Ironically, if irony exists anymore, the food magically showed up when George deigned to visit the disaster area…a full five days after the hurricane hit. By comparison, after the massive tsunami last year, there were food drops within 48 hours.
(Oh, if you want to see violence, George. Wait until these storm victims try to file for bankruptcy after October 17th and find that, thanks to your new Bankruptcy law, they’re pretty much screwed.)
Some other politicians have started weighing in, their jaws hanging at ankle level.
"It’s impossible to defend something like this happening in America," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"No one can be happy with the kind of response which we’ve seen in New Orleans," said Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
And two key U.S. senators said on Friday they will open a bipartisan investigation into what they described as an "immense failure" of the government response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who heads the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the panel’s top Democrat, said they plan to begin an oversight investigation next week when the full Senate returns from a summer recess.
"We intend to demand answers as to how this immense failure occurred, but our immediate focus must and will be on what Congress can do to help the rescue and emergency operations that are ongoing," the senators said in a joint statement.
"It is also our responsibility to investigate the lack of preparedness and inadequate response to this terrible storm," they said, adding that it was "increasingly clear that serious shortcomings in preparedness and response have hampered relief efforts at a critical time."
By the time of their announcement, George was in the air, waving bye-bye to the dead, the dying and the displaced….and the city of New Orleans.
So, what can we say about this President? This golden boy.
He’s crippled the economy.
He’s decimated our educational system.
He’s given billions to the rich in terms of tax cuts.
He’s given billions to Halliburton via "no bid" contracts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He’s eviscerated environmental laws.
He’s allowed the biggest terrorist attack on US soil in history.
He’s launched an illegal, illogical, invasion of a country that wasn’t a threat to America using bogus intelligence claims, costing the lives of tens of thousands of innocents.
He’s revived a billion dollar boondoggle of a "Star Wars" missile defense system…that doesn’t work.
He’s racked up record deficits, while preaching financial conservatism.
He’s created the biggest governmental bureaucracy in history.
He’s stifled dissent and free speech.
He’s isolated himself from real people as would a monarch.
His minions have castrated FEMA, a once effective agency, not only folding it into Homeland Security but appointing leaders who have no experience in disaster relief but were big Bush campaign contributors.
And, while he’s ignored and denied the science that points to intense climate change because of global warming, we’ve been hit by record hurricane seasons.
God doesn’t even seem to like Bush’s America, anymore.
So, maybe God is one of us, after all.
I hope God gets into saving lives in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast pronto.
Because, apparently, the Bush Administration can’t.