Friday, January 16, 2009
It's taken a few days for my neurons to reconnect. Listening (to the extent that I could stand it) to George Bush's final press conference did physical damage to my cerebrum, and it's only now that I can begin to process it. His ability to ignore reality, completely to discount failure, to imply that the perceptions of most of the country and world are are the result of not understanding, is beyond my ability to describe. There are too many examples to catalog, and I simply don't have the stomach for it.
His take on his response to Katrina was a microcosm of the whole debacle. Criticism, from his point of view, was centered around his flyover in Air Force One. How hypocritical of us, he said. After all, had he landed to have a look, we'd have criticized his disruption of the rescue effort. Nice try, Mr Bush.
No, the point is that for the first three days of the disaster, beginning with cutting birthday cake at his ranch as the waters rose, he remained completely disengaged. The flyover, days late, was simply a symbol of his evident lack of concern; or, at minimum, his misunderstanding of the severity. Outraged, he continued: people falsely said the federal response was slow. Tell that to the 30,000 people removed from rooftops, he cried. Tell that to the brave (ah ha, the old "criticize me, you dishonor the troops" trope, wheeled out yet again) "chopper drivers" (see, he was in the Air Force Reserves and, when he wasn't absent from his assigned base, he learned some lingo). Really? Thirty thousand? Maybe that's accurate (I can't find it anywhere, but I'm a little lazy nowadays). If it is, it's damn certain that most were hauled away in boats by local rescuers. The chopper drivers, I'm guessing, were either police or National Guard, neither of which were there because of the federal response. In fact, some US Military pilots were disciplined for veering from their chaotic and ever-changing orders to perform rescues.
George Bush, it seems, is virtually the only person happy with his government's response to Katrina. Facts, reviews, first-hand accounts: I spit on them, he says. We did a heck of a job. Anyone who says different is wrong. End of discussion.
The whole conference was along those lines: revisionism, denialism, and galactic indifference. Biggest mistakes? Same two he finally got around to a couple of years ago: the Mission Accomplished banner, and a couple of sentences he uttered. The rest? Disappointments. WMD, the "tone" in Washington. Disappointments. As if he had nothing to do with it, as if it was someone else's fault, and he, the remote (but compassionate) observer, could only sigh.
Neurons... axons... dendrites... must... reconnect....
The final despicable f#ck you to the press and the country: through the entire forty-seven smarmy and reality-impoverished minutes he willfully refused to call on Helen Thomas*, a widely respected journalist, in her waning years, who's had the guts to ask tough questions of every president since JFK. The simple and undeniable truth: he's a self-absorbed and completely unaccountable -- and I say this after a careful review of the facts and with the respect he's due -- jerk. (Originally I used another word that ends in "k." I guess I'm just too honorable.)
* Here's some insight into Helen Thomas: