Thursday, September 15, 2005
Profiles in Leadership, or Not
I blame George W. Bush for the atmospheric conditions that caused Hurricane Katrina.
OK, not really. I’m kidding. I figured I might as well say it, because any criticism of Bush’s performance in the hurricane’s aftermath tends to draw out devoted Bush-lovers with one absurd comment after another: “Leave it to you liberals to blame Bush for a natural disaster.”
So let’s get it out in the open. If you hear any rabid Bushie accuse liberals of blaming the hurricane on Bush, just pat him on the head and remind him that you were young and your opinions uninformed once, too.
There’s plenty of blame to go around—not for the hurricane, but for the slow response, the inability to get food and water to stranded people, the bureaucratic foul-ups, etc. I’m not going to cover that here. What I want to talk about is leadership, and what passes for it these days.
Anyone with internet access knew what was going on in New Orleans when the 17th Street levee was breached. We knew the streets were filling with water, we knew people were heading to the Superdome, and we knew that some people didn’t make it. We knew people were tying dead bodies to utility poles to keep them from drifting too far from their homes. We knew something tragic was happening on a historical scale.
And the president of the United States flew into action—if by flying into action you mean flying into San Diego to get his picture taken strumming a guitar. Look at the picture up there: He’s got his trademark smirk on, he’s acting like the Singing Cowboy and yukking it up for the crowd, and he doesn’t have a care in the world.
This to me is the most damning photograph of this bonehead’s presidency. I never thought anything could top his deer-in-the-headlights look during the reading of “My Pet Goat,” but this one nails it. It helps to know the context, which is why so many websites have juxtaposed this photograph with shots of the horror going on simultaneously in New Orleans, but when you do, this picture screams “I have let this country down and will continue to do so again and again.”
You know, there was a big flood in New Madrid, Missouri in 1790, but then-President George Washington had an excuse for not making immediate comment on it: His cell phone wasn’t charged. There’s no excuse for Bush not knowing. His handlers had to know. His handlers—who seem to be penisheads in their own right but at least cognizant of what constitutes both good and devastating PR—should have insisted that Bush cancel this appearance and act like a president.
When you look at that picture, you see a man who’s either clueless or uncaring and probably both. You see a man, a leader in name only, who is not responding to the destruction of a major American seaport.
No one expected Bush to go to New Orleans and plug the breach himself, or distribute food and water, or take charge of a triage unit. All he had to do was put down the goddamned guitar and take something seriously.
He didn’t. And I’m not sure he’s knows he’s supposed to. He does have to get on with his life, after all.