Sunday, September 04, 2005

He Takes Off His Own Mask

Thanks to Lonna for the link:

After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."

This administration would like us to forget a lot, starting with the simple fact that next Sunday is the fourth anniversary of the day we were attacked by Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Even before Katrina took command of the news, Sept. 11, 2005, was destined to be a half-forgotten occasion, distorted and sullied by a grotesquely inappropriate Pentagon-sponsored country music jamboree on the Mall. But hard as it is to reflect upon so much sorrow at once, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the real history surrounding 9/11; it is the Rosetta stone for what is happening now. If we are to pull ourselves out of the disasters of Katrina and Iraq alike, we must live in the real world, not the fantasyland of the administration's faith-based propaganda. Everything connects.

Though history is supposed to occur first as tragedy, then as farce, even at this early stage we can see that tragedy is being repeated once more as tragedy. From the president's administration's inattention to threats before 9/11 to his disappearing act on the day itself to the reckless blundering in the ill-planned war of choice that was 9/11's bastard offspring, Katrina is déjà vu with a vengeance.

The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." The administration's complete obliviousness to the possibilities for energy failures, food and water deprivation, and civil disorder in a major city under siege needs only the Donald Rumsfeld punch line of "Stuff happens" for a coup de grâce. How about shared sacrifice, so that this time we might get the job done right? After Mr. Bush's visit on "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Diane Sawyer reported on a postinterview conversation in which he said, "There won't have to be tax increases."

But on a second go-round, even the right isn't so easily fooled by this drill (with the reliable exception of Peggy Noonan, who found much reassurance in Mr. Bush's initial autopilot statement about the hurricane, with its laundry list of tarps and blankets). This time the fecklessness and deceit were all too familiar. They couldn't be obliterated by a bullhorn or by the inspiring initial post-9/11 national unity that bolstered the president until he betrayed it. This time the heartlessness beneath the surface of his actions was more pronounced.

You could almost see Mr. Bush's political base starting to crumble at its very epicenter, Fox News, by Thursday night. Even there it was impossible to ignore that the administration was no more successful at securing New Orleans than it had been at pacifying Falluja.

A visibly exasperated Shepard Smith, covering the story on the ground in Louisiana, went further still, tossing hand grenades of harsh reality into Bill O'Reilly's usually spin-shellacked "No Spin Zone." Among other hard facts, Mr. Smith noted "that the haves of this city, the movers and shakers of this city, evacuated the city either immediately before or immediately after the storm." What he didn't have to say, since it was visible to the entire world, was that it was the poor who were left behind to drown.

Those on the loyal opposition are welcome to join us in a movement for the America that we know and love and is still out there among the population of "regular" folks. For those who want the status quo, get ready for a fight. We are taking our country back and if you get in the way....well, let's put it this way, I see YOU as the traitor.

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