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In Case You Bought Into Bush’s Self-Serving Image Repair

November 14th, 2010

Okay, national crisis settled. Kanye West backed down from his statement five years ago about Bush not caring about black people, and Bush magnanimously forgave West his horrific sin. Goody.

For something slightly more relevant than whether or not a under-inhibited rapper hurt the feelings of a former president, why not go down to New Orleans and ask the families of the more than one and a half thousand people who died in the predominantly African-American city whether or not they forgive Bush for dawdling for five days before finally sending national guard troops to rescue and assist people and bring materials and support?

It speaks a great deal to the man’s judgment and humanity that he perceives his greatest mistake was to fly over New Orleans and publish a PR image of him looking out the window, and his greatest heartbreak was a rapper’s insult and not the people who suffered and died in the storm and flood.

In the photograph, he said, he looked “detached and uncaring,” as if that was really anything to be concerned about. As if staying on vacation to celebrate his birthday while the crisis raged was an understandable delay, or that waiting for five days before deploying the national guard was a minor technical detail.

Though he repeated it in his current book-selling tour, it was at his final press conference as president that he came up with this insipidly self-serving idea that he could have shown his concern more effectively by landing in the area and having a photo op. In what can only be called an astonishingly heartless attempt to spin the reality, he then acts out painful realization that landing his jet would just have distracted from the rescue effort. The rescue efforts he failed to begin for another three days.

Setting aside the fact that his failure to act, which caused hundreds of Americans to die in neglect, was his greatest blunder, Bush’s humanitarian concern over the potential disruption of rescue efforts is transparently dishonest. Remember the whole “Heckuva job, Brownie” incident? The irony of that unearned compliment is what caught the headlines, but what went largely unreported was that Bush’s photo op halted rescue efforts at a time when dozens of people were still dying every day. Instead, Bush commandeered the nice, shiny helicopters (not being used or serviced during his photo op in front of them) to serve as a backdrop for his heroic PR campaign where he lauded a criminally incompetent crony. Remember, that photo op came just as the guard troops began to arrive and were needed most urgently. Nor was it the only time he held things up. Bush made repeated trips to the area, each time diverting and delaying rescue efforts while lives were still being lost.

Worse, when Bush “came to the rescue” with supplies and equipment, these things tended to stay only slightly longer than Bush did. After he left, the supplies and equipment were pulled out after him, showing that they were for show, not for helping people. Flash but no depth.

And yet, even with all of this clearly recorded and easily available to anyone who cared to look back at it, we still allow ourselves to have the narrative hijacked by irrelevant bullshit like the story of Kanye West hurting Bush’s feelings.

  1. GeoffK
    November 14th, 2010 at 20:23 | #1

    You do know that this disaster wasn’t primarily Bush’s responsibility don’t you? That he had to defer to the (Democratic) Governor and (Democratic) mayor of New Orleans. Both of whom were slow to react and made terrible decisions (like allowing needed buses to be swamped). But Bush is Republican, so everything bad that happened is his fault.

    On the other hand, Obama had *primary* responsibility for the BP spill. The Federal government was in charge. So when Obama screwed around and did nothing for weeks and weeks, that really is his fault. But don’t expect the media to call him on it. When he did act, it was to shut down all drilling and put even more people out of work than his economic policies had already managed.

    Double standard, anyone?

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