Friday, September 30, 2005

Out of Jail

I expect you're as relieved as I am, Bush, to see New York Times reporter Judith Miller freed from jail today. What an embarrassment! In a free and democratic America, to have a news reporter in jail for something that she never even wrote! What a mockery! So much for freedom of speech! So much for the right of a journalist to protect her source! What could the rest of the world be thinking, when we preach one thing so pompously, then turn around and violate our precious principle ourselves? What would your people be saying about China, say, if they treated a journalist this way?

That said, I have to admit I'm puzzled by the conflicting stories here. Miller asserts that she never received "a personal, explicit statement" from her source, allowing her to name him in testimony. Attorneys for the source himself, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, your Cheney's Chief of Staff, claim that he "signed a waiver more than a year ago." The fact that Miller didn't get the message was, they claimed, a "misunderstanding."

You know what, Bush? I find it incredibly hard to believe that this smart, articulate, word-savvy woman, whose life's work has been the art and business of communication, would spend eighty-five days of her precious time in jail because she failed to understand a clear and unconditional statement of release. And even if this smart, articulate, word-savvy woman had indeed been so obtuse, on this occasion, as to misunderstand his waiver, why in God's name would this Scooter stand by and allow her to spend all that time in jail when he knew very well, if it was true, that he had released her from her obligation to protect him as her source, and that she had "misunderstood" him? What a gentleman! And what, knowing the circumstances, would have prevented him at any time along the way--including the time before her being sent to prison--from picking up the phone and saying, "Hi, Judith. This is Scooter. Remember me? Well, I release you." Or sitting down with her over a cup of coffee? Or dropping her a hand-signed note?

So you see how this thing might seem to me to stink a bit, Bush. And how I might be asking myself what your people might be getting out of this journalist being held in jail for so long. The intimidation of other journalists? Petty vengeance, either against Miller personally, for her honest reporting on Iraq or against the New York Times? The hope that the whole disgraceful episode--the gratuitous outing of a CIA agent, with all its national security ramifications, in order to punish her husband for exposing your administration's lies--would in time disappear from the public consciousness, or lose its political value to those who oppose your policies and practices? Or, perhaps worst of all, was it just the sheer habit of abusing power?

Well, the truth is, I can't fathom it, Bush. I'm glad for Miller's sake that she's out of jail; and I hope that you will take the trouble to demand an explanation for the entire episode. But I'm not holding my breath. If I were in your shoes, I'd be screaming at these people for an explanation for embarrassing me this way.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Your Delay

I caught snatches yesterday--another day of packing, Bush, and getting ready for the big move!--of the developing drama of your Delay's indictment and (temporary?) resignation. Of course, his response was to issue angry denials and to blame the Democrats. (Didn't we talk about this tactic only yesterday?) It's my understanding that your Delay's life's mission has been to pursue a permanent Republican majority, not only in your home state of Texas but throughout the country. And to achieve this no matter what the cost, no matter with what guile or deception, no matter with what blatant abuse of power or disregard for either common decency or the views of others.

Having yourself only recently embraced the vision of spreading democracy (American-style!) throughout the world, you might now wish to put Delay right on a couple of points about the meaning of the word. Because his vision is frankly the antithesis of democracy. It is, in fact, nothing short of a totalitarian vision he pursues with such fanatical devotion. His chosen strategy--the redistricting of electoral districts to the insuperable advantage of Republican incumbents and Republican candidates--effectively deprives "the people" of the right to choose their representatives by rigging the results of elections in advance.

I'm assuming, Bush, that this tactic is something you would disparage in those countries that you wish to convert to the blessings of democracy--although we have reason to believe that the sham of an election is better, in your eyes, than no election at all, particularly when the results are those that suit your agenda and political convenience. But wouldn't your constant preaching on this subject ring a little more authentic if we could set the example here at home?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Good Doctor

So you guys triumphalized your way into power, Bush--I might more accurately say, you bullied your way into power--with a lot of bleat and blather about honesty and integrity in government. And now the rank odor of corruption is beginnng to seep through the cracks all over the place. What you really meant, it turns out, was honesty and integrity for the rest of us poor slobs. For you guys, it's the gravy train.

So let's have a little fun today with your good doctor, Frist. I know, Bush, everyone and his brother is piling on to him right now, and the familiar strategy--we've seen it a hundred times now--is, first, the protestation of innocence, and then the cry of politics as usual. Who, me? Followed in the same breath by, It's the Democrats! Now they're malinging sweet Doctor Innocent for their foul political advantage. Doctor Diagnose-from-a-distance, Doctor I-know-what's best-for you. I read today, on the net, how he's begun to lend his support to those who are promoting the inclusion of Intelligent Design in American classrooms. What a scientist, Bush, this doctor!

Anyway, the good doctor sold his home-grown stock just in time to make a bundle--with, of course, the most pious of motives. He wanted to avoid even the remotest possibility of a conflict of interest. Had no idea, of course, that he could be making money on the deal. It was all safely tucked away in a "blind" trust. Had been for years. And he even checked on the legality before he sold.

Okay, Bush, But why did you good doctor fail to see the possibility of a conflict of interest five years ago, when he was elected--and when the stock happened to be somewhat less in value? Why wait until his pig was nicely fattened before slaughtering it? Coincidence? Good fortune? As luck would have it, your Senate Majority Leader just happened to profit by a few millions on the side. Legitimately, of course.

Go tell that one to the Marines, Bush. Maybe they'll believe the "Commander-in-Chief." Maybe they'll believe in the pure motivations of your Delay, too, in his association with that arch-creep, Abramoff, and his minion in your administration, arrested last week--the one you appointed to dole out the Katrina funds, on a no-bid basis, to more friends. No matter how you dress it up, Bush, no matter how you preach it as honesty and integrity, this whole mess is beginning to stink. When you get right down to it, it's all about the money. It's all about these people taking care of themselves and their friends. You ought to be ashamed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The C Word

Chaos, Bush. It's sheer bloody chaos around here. In the old house, boxes everywhere. Stacks of boxes, loaded boxes, overflowing, half-filled boxes, empty boxes waiting to be filled... I've already taken a hundred of them to our storage unit. There are dozens more. Stuff everywhere, piled up, strewn about, waiting to be packed. Plastic, bubble wrap, newspaper. Pictures stacked against the wall, waiting to be wrapped. In the new house, more chaos. Debris from the demolition still filling the garage. Dust everywhere. Sheet rock, broken ends of wood and metal, not a single room untouched. And everything, of course, takes three times longer than expected. I checked in yesterday evening and found that Monday had gone by with scarcely any evidence of progress.

And even so, I keep reminding myself that all this chaos in our life here at home is just a miniature reflection of what's happening out there in the country at large. On the news, I see images of the destruction on the Gulf Coast, the tens of thousands who have lost their homes completely. Not to mention those whose families have been decimated by the storms. Not to mention the chaos further afield... We have to be grateful that our share of the chaos is so small.

But that wasn't that C word that I wanted to mention today. I was shocked, Bush, shocked, to hear you suggesting, in public, that people might think about parking their cars and avoiding unnecessary trips. About using public transportation. About, um... conservation. Should I believe my ears? Admittedly, the word came out reluctantly, but I distinctly heard it. Conservation! Forgive me, I thought we were all about consumption, Bush. About being good consumers so that private enterprise could prosper and the corporations could keep filling their coffers. So that, in turn, the benefits could trickle down to the poor and the middle classes? And don't I remember your Cheney talking disparagingly about conservation, as though the very idea were some quaint aberration on the part of mindless tree-huggers?

Conservation! What a concept! I mean, Bush, wherever did you come up with this revolutionary idea? Could it have been the prospect of the political consequences of escalating gas prices? Of home heating prices rising by, potentially, some seventy percent? That's what I hear this morning on the news. I imagine that even the most avid of your supporters might begin the catch the rank odor of rotting policies once they assess the impact of their energy bills on household budgets. Perhaps even conservatives will begin to recognize the vital importance of conservation. Aren't the two words related? I wonder, then, could this be the silver lining on the dark clouds that we see everywhere today?

Monday, September 26, 2005


Two days of silence... My apologies. The fact is, we are suffering another trauma in our family: one loved person has simply disappeared, without a word to anyone. He has been gone for a week now, and we are all in great distress. This is such a strange time. So much going awry, close to home as well as in the bigger world out there. So much trauma. I hestitated long before posting this one... But I decided long ago that this was more about me, Bush, than about you. Even when I'm talking about you, it's all about my conscience and my consciousness. And besides, I'm getting as tired of the sound of my own voice as I am of all those irritating things you do. Anyway, here goes. This, from the early hours this morning:


And so you chose to leave us,
"without a trace," slamming the door
in the face of friends and family.
No note. No explanation. Only
a few small, neat, accusatory piles
of personal items, in your apartment,
addressed to individuals you thought
would need to hear from you in some way;
and your new music website, closed out,
friends’ pictures gone, your recent songs
erased—all but the one about the "afterlife."
A message, there? And then your dog,
the one you doted on, the one you loved
more than any other living being,
abandoned. Oh, you did leave her food
and water, and you locked the door
behind you with the knowledge
that she would be found, an d fed,
and cared for. Still, her presence there,
alone, made your disappearance seem
an act of desperation. And we, left
with nothing but the self-evidence
of your absence from our lives,
have no choice now but to invent
our own bleak stories, each of us
in our own way: that you chose
for reasons unfathomable to us,
to end your life; that the debts
you left behind you, the three months’
rent, the unpaid credit cards, the notice
of eviction, the disconnected telephone,
all proved too much. Or that the end
of some unknown, perhaps secret
love affair had left you in despair;
or even that a current, joyful one,
had caused you to elope to Canada
or other parts unknown, in ecstasy.
Or that you decided, not to end it all,
but simply disappear, to make a new life
south of the border, in Mexico, say,
or Costa Rico. Remember, you had done
something similar before, uprooting,
and heading north to San Francisco.
So much, though, for the jaunty tone
of your recent phone calls and emails.
So much for the frequent glib assurances
that you were doing fine. So much
for the upbeat descriptions of a new life,
a new apartment, new furniture and clothes.
It was all just another fiction, intended
to persuade yourself as much as us.
Whatever. And whatever choice you made,
this was the big fuck-you of all time,
Alistair, wasn’t it? An act of rage,
I’ll show them, a kind of vengeance
on what you saw to be an unkind world
aligned against you, inhabited
by unkind people, who never failed
to disappoint you. The final irony
being how much you were truly loved.
How much, already, knowing nothing,
so many of us miss you in our lives.
And all this time, out there, while you
hatched out your plot, in the real world,
Katrina was busy snatching human lives,
Rita was bearing down, and bloody chaos
continued to hold sway in Iraq. So what
are we to learn from this strange
synchronicity, if not the insecurity
of all being, the precious and vulnerable
gift of life, the only lasting value: love.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Disappointment

I was seriously disappointed, Bush, by your TV appearance yesterday. What was it: a press conference? An address to the nation? No matter. And no matter all the pomp and flags and cabinet secretaries and uniformed generals lined up at your side, it was just more hot air. Billed as a major statement on the progress of your war, it was simply a repetition of the same old tired rhetoric: how well our troops are doing, how the insurgents are being beaten back, how the Iraqi forces are taking over the responsibility, how we must expect more violence, how democracy will prevail. So what was the point? Was it simply another staged event to show us "the strong leader"? I'm getting tired of that one, too. It may be unfair to remind you that Hitler's self-styled mode of address was "Der Fuehrer"--the leader. And what about Kim Jong Il? Don't they call him the "Dear Leader"? Something like that. Strong leadership requires something other than display. To be anything other than empty or simply authoritarian, it requires conviction and credibility. I wish I could believe you, Bush. I don't.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hell in a Handbasket

I don't want to make light of the predicament of those unfortunate people in Rita's path, Bush. Nor of the huge problems a new and potentially horribly destructive blow will create for our national economy. Still, the temptation to take a leaf from Pat Robertson's book is irresistible. He does have this way of attributing these disasters to God's wrath: the latest, I heard, was that Katrina was God's vengeance on Ellen De Generes--a native New Orleanian--for being a lesbian. I know you share Robertson's belief in this same God, who visits His wrath upon the human species, and I'm wondering what you personally believe His message might be? Myself, if I subscribed to this belief, I'd tend to see this unending parade of disasters--9/11, the Iraq war, Katrina, Rita--as a powerful message that we're on the wrong track and need to change course. Check out your New Testament again, Bush. I believe it suggests principles somewhat different from cutting taxes for the wealthy--and services for the poor.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Nazi Hunter

Time for a few words for Simon Wiesenthal, Bush, who has been much on my mind since his death a couple of days ago. Here was a man who dedicated his life to the service of the world and its history, and to the cause of justice. His wake-up call was the Holocaust, the slaughter of six million Jews--along with millions of other "undesirables"--in the Nazi death camps in the early 1940s. In the same way, perhaps, though on a vastly different scale, that yours came on September 11, 2001.

As I understand it, Wiesenthal's life was devoted not to vengeance, but to justice and to human history. He wanted his to serve as an exemplary and lasting reminder to the world that human beings should not be allowed to commit such acts and get away with it. His weapons were not batallions of soldiers armed with guns and mortars, but fragile memories, millions of scraps of paper and fading photographs, records meticulously assembled. His targets were those Nazi thugs who had managed to slip below the horizon after World Wat II, living in distant countries under assumed identities, "terrorists," in a way--though of course no longer active. Different from your terrorists, Bush, in that sense. His Osama, perhaps, was Adolph Eichman, an important architect and facilitator of the Nazi crimes, and a man whom Wiesenthal pursued for years, doggedly--not, I think, in that "dead or alive" spirit of revenge, but to be able to hold him up as a prime example to all those who think to pursue crimes against humanity with impunity.

The organization that inherits most clearly from Wiesenthal's work today is surely the World Court, set up to investigate the acts of dictators and thugs who slaughter their own people, or those they choose to hate. It saddens me immensely, Bush, that you refuse to honor this court with the recognition of our country. It saddens me to think that Wiesenthal's lesson may be lost on the United States under your watch, when despicable acts like those at Abu Ghraib are met with denial rather than aggressive investigation, and with the punishment of only a handful of those who were "only following orders"--and yes, they should be punished--and the inexcuable exoneration of those who gave them.

Let's honor the memory of Wiesenthal, Bush, not in empty words, but as the inspiration for our actions in the world.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Bigger Lesson

I'm thinking this morning that there's an even bigger lesson that we're supposed to be learning than the one about our puny government and its failures, Bush. It was that old literary lion Kurt Vonnegut who brought it to mind last night, when I saw him on the Daily Show: that this great Earth, perhaps, in her wisdom, is simply trying to rid herself of her most tiresome species: ourselves. She has done it before, with others, as we know.

And we have not been kind to her, Bush, these past couple of hundred years. We have forgotten to pay her the respect she's due and, worse, have abused and exploited her for all we're worth. We have been no kinder to ourselves, of course, not to each other, but that's not the point right here. The point is, she has kept trying to warn us in a variety of ways, like a tired old irritated mother, and we have ignored her warnings.

So the bigger question is this: has she finally given up on us? Has she decided, understandably, in her own best interests, that it's time for us to go? She does work slowly. It might take a couple of hundred years--depending on how badly we behave. But she will do it, if she has to. So maybe this is the lesson we should be listening to. It's time to start making amends, perhaps. Time to start paying some respect, as our ancestors once did: to them, even stones and trees were grandfathers. So...


Four a.m. Woken
by the sound of thunder.
Thought at first it was freight cars
colliding, down in the valley, as they sometimes do.
Then it grew, the sound exploding out in waves
through rolling banks of cloud, and tapering
way off into the distance. Then lightning,
more thunder. And finally the rain. Months
since the last one. Even here,
in the city, you feel the earth
drink it in. Watch your body: it, too,
drinks the rain. It wakens. Ten minutes,
maybe twenty, and the storm is over,
skulking off east toward the desert.
Just one of nature's tantrums, then. I think, though,
of Katrina, that Fury
that left thousands dead and tens of thousands
scurrying for safety in her wake; shattered
whole streets and cities into the ruined shards
of mankind's most intimate structures: homes.
Now, at five, a light rain persists.
Lucky, when you think of it, here
in Los Angeles. Just a hiccup, really.
Who knows, though, what nature has got
waiting for us in her belly? One day,
when she chooses, she'll let go.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Image Thing

Maybe I have missed a beat somewhere along the way, Bush, but I have still not been able to find any official action or statement confirming what I have read, now, in several places concerning the positition of your Rove in the Gulf Coast recovery effort: that you have put him "in charge"? Bill Maher repeated it in his Friday night show, a reader reminds me. "Does Bush know only three people?" he asked, incredulously, regarding the supposed appointment.

Is this true, Bush, or has someone got the wrong end of the stick? If it's true, why has there not been some clear confirmation to that effect coming from your White House? Or did I simply miss it? I checked online, with no luck there, either. So, no fanfare. Maybe this is something you're not too proud of, or maybe you worry about the public reaction if you put it out as some kind of official announcement?

If you're wondering why I'm fussing about this lack of clarity, it's because this appointment--if it's true--is so patently underhanded. A little like the appointment of your Bolton to the UN job, although in that case you couldn't have hoped that nobody was watching. The whole world was appalled. It's the sneakiness of it, Bush. Is that because you were actually aware of the message it would send: that, for you, this whole disaster is about politics and image--your personal image, and your poll numbers, Bush, and not about the systemic erosion of government that has been your policy since taking office?

So bring in the spinmeister to take charge of the problem. And while he does whatever needs to be done to rebuild your crumbling base, you can get on, behind the scenes, with the real business at hands: protecting your tax cuts for the wealthy, and further degrading the ability of government to serve the people who elect it. This does not bode well, Bush. I may sound like the proverbial broken record, but it will all come back to haunt this country, and before too long. You are disempowering not only the government, but this once great nation that you claim so piously to love.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Karl Rove in Charge?

Can anyone help me out with this?

"Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development."

Scary thought. It's a quote from the 9/15 edition of the NY Times, and everyone seems to be taking it seriously, but I haven't been able to find confirmation elsewhere. Karl Rove in charge? Who are these "Republicans" who said this?

Read My Lips

So, Bush, I read today that you have made clear your intention NOT to raise taxes, even as you shower money on the Hurricane Katrina victims in order to salvage the shreds of your sagging reputation. And that you have no plans even to rescind some of those generous tax give-aways to the wealthy. You still haven't answered my question, though: just where is the money coming from? I've heard you expend a lot of your hot air, in the past few years, on the subject of curtailing government spending, but I haven't seen a single action to back up your words. Not a single veto from your desk. On another front, I guess you haven't quite maxed out our national credit card yet--although I suspect that our major creditors are beginning to worry about this country's fiscal responsibililty. You could borrow more, I suppose, and leave more for your successors to deal with for many years after you're gone.

When you talk about budget cuts, however--if ever you prove gutsy enough to actually enforce such discipline--there's some of us out here who wonder where you're going to get them from. There's the pork, of course. Some of those pet highway projects, like $150 million bridges going to nowhere. But this is still chicken feed, beside the estimated $200 need--and this, while the costs of your endlessly expensive war continue to escalate. So I guess you'll be looking to Medicare and other social services to take up the slack. I mean, what else is there? The military? You could drop that ridiculous star wars defense plan. But somehow, I don't hold out much hope for such wisdom from you, Bush. I very much fear the cuts will end up coming out of the hide of the poor and needy. I fear they will serve to further downgrade the already disgracefully meager dole we hand out so reluctantly to our children's educational needs. I fear they will further damage a precarious health system, and render medical services unreachable to many more Americans.

Is this what you plan, Bush? Or do you not, frankly, have a plan? Is it all by the seat of your pants? Is it all what you think you can get away with?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Much As I Thought

It's much as I thought, Bush. Stirring words about the indomitable American spirit. A call to the compassionate response of the citizenry, with prominent mention of churches and religious organizations. An appeal for continuing cash donations. And, yes, an acknowledgement of government failure: "I am responsible for the problem--and the solution," you said.

The solution? "One of the largest reconstruction projects the world has ever seen," you boasted. Bravo, Bush! "We'll build higher and better." Of course! This is America! You promise a massive government program, primarily geared to supporting the entrepreneur, the individual job-seeker, and the aspiring homeowner--all along the noble lines of "God helps those who help themselves."

But not a word about the fundamental reasons for the spectacular failure: the anti-government philosophy promulgated by your conservative gang for the past forty years or so, which has undermined not only the funding but the competent staffing of key government departments, including, obviously, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This cumulative tide of me-firstism at the expense of social programs has effectively emasculated the government and its essential services.

Not a word, too, about how you plan to cover the cost of all this federal largesse with which you plan to cover your smarting rear end. Take it out of medicare and other social services for the poor? Or borrow more from China, Japan, Korea... and leave the debt for our children and grandchildren to worry about?

This disaster, I promise you, Bush, is only the tip of a Titanic iceberg. Nature just took the opportunity to hand us a significant wake-up call. What happens when the country's crumbling infrastructure--like the New Orleans levees--finally begins to show more than these few cracks? When the neglected education system bears fruit in further ignorance, and poverty, and dependence? When the health care system, such as it is, collapses under the weight of increasing costs and decreasing ability on the part of most Americans to meet them? When the American underclass reaches critical mass, as it surely must?

Bill Clinton had it right this morning in a television interview: the first imperative is to rescind your tax cuts for the wealthiest few, to begin to cover the costs of maintaining armies in Iraq and Afghanistan and the reconstruction along the Guld Coast. But your appeal for sacrifice, Bush, remains on a strictly voluntary basis. So far, as I understand it, the Bush I/Clinton fund has reached a total of $90 million--that's million, with an "m." A terrific effort, surely. But the cost estimates for your recovery programs are somewhere around $200 billion to the taxpayer. That's billion, with a "b." Charititable donations, in other words, are barely even a drop in this oversized bucket.

So what's the plan, Bush? Good to have recognized responsibility. Good to have promised significant help. Not to look at the other side of the ledger: bad.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Compassionate Response

Before you get too excited about charitable organizations and private citizens pitching in to pick up the slack the federal government has left--will leave--in this Katrina aftermath, please bear this personal note in mind: I have a friend, an artist--and incidentally a faithful reader of our diaries--who happens to work among the homeless in downtown Los Angeles. A person of obviously deep conscience and integrity, and one who devotes her working life to valuable community service, she was over at our house the other night expressing serious concern about the charitable efforts of those in this city who have, with the best of intentions, brought dozens of evacuees from the Gulf Coast into temporary shelter in our city. Of course she would wish to help these unfortunate people. Of course. Who wouldn't?

Our friend was speaking, though, out of the experience of watching the homeless population continue to grow apace in the area where she works. It's not just men and women any more, she says: it's whole families. How could the city absorb another significant influx, when we can't even adequately respond to the desperate needs of those already here? As the promised trickle-down effect continues to flood upward to the already wealthy instead of trickling down to those in need, those at the bottom of the heap are sinking further and further into poverty and despair. As I understand it, the conservative strangling of the government beast, from top to bottom, has effectively stripped local governments of the means to aid their poorest citizens, even as they multiply in numbers.

With this in mind, much more is needed than your Dad's rosy picture of a thousand points of light, or your "faith-based" charities. You took the step of accepting responsibility for the failures of the federal government in responding to the Gulf Coast disaster--but, as an astute letter writer to the New York Times asked this very morning, Bush: what does that mean? Does it mean that you're ready to take the difficult steps necessary to make goverment responsible again? Does it mean that you're ready to ask the country to make sacrifices--and pay taxes? Does it mean that you'll do whatever it takes to prepare the country for the next natural disaster or terrorist attack?

Or, Bush, is it just more hot air? I hope you'll clarify these points in your prime time speech to the nation this evening, and that you won't waste all of our time reminding us what a great country we are, and how we'll emerge stronger from this ordeal, and how the compassionate response of the American people will rise to the occasion. Enough with the bullshit, okay, Bush? We need some real change in your attitude toward the government you purport to lead before we believe another word from you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Portrait... and More Fine Words

Just to get us started... Here's an "official portrait" of your good self by a frequent Bush Diaries correspondent. Thanks to him for forwarding his work, and for his permission to send it on to you. We hope you appreciate its finer qualities. Personally I like the way it captures that paradoxical spirit of benign malignancy.

More fine words this morning, Bush, at the United Nations. I watched the whole speech--interrupted only briefly when NBC thought fit to preempt your speech with Katie Couric, and I had to change channels to find you somewhere else. A bit of a nerve, huh? On the part of NBC? To prefer our Katie over the leader of the free world? Ah, well.

Fine words, anyway, as I say. But--forgive my growing cynicism: I hate to keep carping on at you like this--I have to confess they ring hollow to me. They ring hollow when you pontificate about poverty in the rest of the world so soon after the poverty we tolerate in our own country has been revealed for all to see. They ring hollow when you trumpet America's role in fighting AIDS in African countries and elsewhere, and at the same time cut vital funds to programs of proven success just because they promote the use of condoms. They ring hollow when you hector other countries about subsidies and trade barriers while your Congress squanders billions annually bailing out American farmers at the expense of third world countries--although I did hear you offer, Bush, to end our subsidies when other countries do the same. The words ring hollow when you tout the wonderful results of your Iraq adventure--as yet only anticpated, of course--when at least 150 more people die on the streets of Baghdad even as you speak, and 500 more are injured.

And the words ring especially hollow, Bush, when you lecture the world about freedom and democracy and ignore the subversion of freedom and democarcy here at home--from rigged elections to legislation that is bought and paid for by corporate interests; from media controlled not by government, perhaps, but by those whose money buys the government, to the disenfranchisement of large sections of the populace through undereducation, deception, and often outright lies. And what kind of freedom is it we enjoy when our minds are subjected daily, hourly, to so much rant and spin, so much hucksterism, so much political and religious cant that most of us can't think straight any more?

On a more pleasant note, Bush, one of our artists' groups reassembled last night for the first time in nearly three months, after a long summer hiatus. We usually try to avoid politics and talk mostly about art--along with the challenges we all face in a bottom-line art world that ignores too much of its talent in favor of commercial interests. I have to tell you, though, that your name came up. Out of ten of us, all ten were outraged by your policies and appointments, and by the sheer, extravagant incompetence of your administration. Not one, I regret to tell you, had a single good word to say for you. We are, of course, all far-out, left-wing, wide-eyed, stoned-out California freaks, so I'm sure you have little time for our opinions. But I thought I should tell you anyway.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


"The storm did not discriminate," you insisted yesterday, Bush--angrily repudiating accusations of discrimination in New Orleans--"and nor will the recovery effort." Fine words, Bush. But what a narrow, patrician understanding of discrimination and how it works: the helicopter crews, you said, did not seek out the white faces and ignore the black. Rescue workers did not knock only on the doors of white residents and pass by the black. Food and shelter were not offered only on the basis of the victims' skin color.

True enough. But then please explain how the vast majority of those targeted by Katrina's havoc were the dispossessed, the poor, the black. Did the storm not "discriminate" against them--enabled, no doubt, by a neglectful society that had for many years chosen to pass them by and leave them exposed? Were those who lacked the means, the education, even the basic transportation to take care of themselves in this emergency--were they not victims, too, of discrimination? Those fortunate enough to live on higher ground, to benefit from more sophisticated commuications, to have cars and the means to fill their tanks--these were the ones who were called upon to bear less of the storm's brunt. Not that I want in any way to minimize their pain and loss; but proportionately, the poor and the black were undeniably called upon to suffer more.

So I can't agree with you, Bush, that the storm did not discriminate. It did. It simply discriminated along the lines that we, as a society, had prepared for it--conditions that your policies, these past five years, have done nothing to ameliorate. In fact, the opposite is true: they have led to a greater distance between rich and poor, greater barriers between white and black and, yes, Bush, greater discrimination. Sorry, I can't let you wriggle of this hook either, despite the fine rhetoric your speechwriters prepare for our consumption: "The storm did not discriminate, and nor will the recovery effort." Nice-sounding words, Bush. But no cigar.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I caught a quick glimpse of an old--well, not so very old, fairly recent, really--video shot of you on the television news this morning, Bush. It looked like it must have been shot just a few moments after you originally introduced your Roberts as a Supreme Court Justice nominee: he was making his little gratitude speech and you were standing there beside him, a little behind, a little to one side, and you looked so small, so timid, so little-boy robot-like, Pinocchio, (not a bad analogy when you think of it, Bush! Remember the nose?) erect, hands to your sides, eyes shifting uncomfortably as they do... You had that famous deer-in-the-headlights look about you, and for a second I had that sense once again that you must be feeling totally out of your depth, totally lost beside this big-boy nominee, this Roberts, all confident and smart. I felt almost sorry for you, standing there...

And then this morning also, a forwaded (and doctored, naturally!) picture from a friend and sometime reader of these pages that we write together, you and I: a picture of you and your dad, Bush Senior, fishing merrily in the floodwaters of the city of New Orleans. You have just caught a big one, and your grin suggests you're right at home with your fishing rod and your dad there at your shoulder, beaming with fatherly approval. Behind you both, the ruined city, to which you're clearly both oblivious. Not very nice, Bush. But the picture had some pathetic truth to it.

Speaking of pictures, we have a zillion of them here in our old house. I spent the early hours of the morning sorting through some of them with Ellie: what to keep, what to try to sell, what to put in the garage sale, what to junk... Images. Such powerful stuff, in the hands of artists. Ah well, we started this whole moving process with the desire to scale back on all the stuff we've accumulated, so a lot of it has to go. The work involved in clearing out thirty-five years of living with art and artifacts is simply huge. All of which means, Bush, that our efforts here in the diaries might get a little spotty for a while. I'm surprised, in fact, that I found the time today... And glad to have produced at least a couple of thoughts for you to mull.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


I guess the plans to mark the memory of this day four years ago have been overshadowed by the events on the Gulf Coast. Still, it's appropriate to stop whatever it is we're doing for a couple of minutes of silence to recall those many lives lost, and the horror of the event that we thought would change our lives for ever. You swore we would be prepared for the next one, didn't you, Bush. Yet, sadly, we proved ourselves as unprepared as ever when the next blow came--this time not from terrorists, and not even by surprise, but from a storm that had been predicted, first, for years, and then for several actual days before it hit.

No recriminations, though, today. Just a great deal of sadness for those we've lost. I have always recoiled at the name we've given that day. "9/11" seems, well, so perfunctory for a day that marks so great a tragedy. I link it in my mind to that other numerical abbreviation that I loathe, 24/7--a concept that seems to me utterly lacking in humanity. Will we soon be referring to Christmas Day as 12/25? Or New Year's Day as 1/1? I suppose it's too late, now that the nomenclature has slipped into the language, to find something more dignified for this day? We managed once to find the words for Labor Day and Memorial Day. Perhaps one day we'll find some way to memorialize 9/11 with a name that befits its gravity.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Heck of a Job, Bushy

I have to say, Bush--to adapt one of your more felicitous utterances--you're doing a heck of a job as President of these United States. One weak point, though, if I might mention it: your choices for federal appoinments. I can't remember where I read this quote, but I wrote it down word for word so I trust it's right: "I don't like it when a friend gets criticized," you're reported to have said, "I'm loyal to my friends."

Listen, Bush, I know you think that you're a great judge of character, and that you prize loyalty above most other qualities. I understand that you were the chief loyalty enforcer when your Dad was in the White House. But I'm not sure, honestly, exactly what you mean by loyalty. If it means rewarding your friends with lavish praise, promotions, and business contracts when they haven't earned them, that's not how I understand the word. If it means standing by you, right or wrong, agreeing with everything you say and do, and never criticizing you, then I disagree fundamentally with your definition. To me, a loyal friend is not a yes-man, but someone I can trust to tell me when I'm off track or out of line, who can call me on my bullshit, and hold me accountable for my words and actions.

Your failure to hold your Brown accountable for his mishandling of the directorship of FEMA, which you had entrusted to him on the strength, apparently, of his friendship with one of your loyal friends, is nothing short of astounding. Here you are, President of the most powerful country in the world, and you don't even have the guts to fire the man yourself; not even, in fact, to fire him. Instead, you had your Chertoff do the dirty work, half-hearted as it was, in pulling him back from the front of the disaster response and leaving him in charge of the office back in Washington.

And while we're on the subject, what a travesty, the press conference where this all came about, with your Chertoff at the microphone, all huffy and indignant, and poor hangdog Brown forced to stand behind him, a little to one side, humiliated, and forbidden from uttering a word. "I thought I made the ground rules absolutely clear," your Chertoff barked, waving off a press question addressed to Brown. Talk about Homeland Security tsar! He behaved like one.

The thing is, Bush, you're not being a loyal friend in appointing a person way beyond his capacities, simply because you can expect and demand his loyalty. (It's called the Peter Principle, isn't it? Much to my chargin!) You're not being a loyal friend exposing him to the probability and the humiliation of failure. Above all, you're not being loyal to the country you were elected (well, nearly) to serve when you make appointments that repay debts and satisfy your own personal interests rather than the country's.

I might not be so terrible, Bush, if your Brown were the only one. But this is a pattern. You make appointments based on personal or family loyalties rather than qualifications or past experience and performance. And then when they fuck up you assure them of your loyalty, you tell them that they've done a "superb job" (in Rumsfeld's case, after the disaster that followed the Iraq invasion,) or "a heck of a job" for Brownie. And now you have nomination of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court under your belt, and another Justice yet to go. I tremble, Bush. I tremble for all of us, given your track record. A heck of a job indeed.

Friday, September 09, 2005


This doesn't look good, Bush. Not good at all. I mean, we all knew last week already that your Brown was no great shakes as an emergency relief administrator, that his previous management experience was with some horse riding academy--and that he was "let go" from that job. Now we find out, thanks to Time Magazine's diligent research, that either his resume was falsified when he got the job, or your White House people polished it up a bit to make his official bio look better. Either way, it seems clear that he got this job at FEMA as a result of being pals with the previous guy, and that they all had some cosy ties with you and your folks as fundrasers and supporters. I guess we expect some cronyism in less important jobs: after all, we scratch each others' backs in a variety of ways. But here we're talking about the man responsible for human lives, Bush. Whose incompetence and unpreparedness for the job may have caused untold misery and countless deaths! I think you owe us all an explanation for your involvement in the appointment process, or the permissiveness toward your staff that allowed a calamity of this kind to happen.

That's it for today, Bush. Back to the salt mines for me. And for you...? Well, the poll numbers continue to sink drastically. Good luck with it all.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's Raining Money

Listen, it's not that I disapprove in any way, Bush, of coming up with all that money to help those who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their loved ones in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. No, I approve. It's the right thing to do. For you, with your latest polls showing a terrible loss of faith in your administration, it's the only thing to do. The latest figures I heard were the $51.8 billion request you sent to Congress yesterday, plus the amount already requested, totalling now some $62 billion, plus. You had to do it, Bush, no question. And no question that it helps to make you look a little better, both to the affected people and to your constituents in general, after last week's political disaster. It's also, as I see it, one of the important functions of government, to provide that safety net for our less fortunate citizens--among whom we must now count the storm victims of the Gulf Coast.

But... and here's my but, Bush--if you'll forgive the pun: what I still need to hear from you is some strong, unambiguous statement as to where that money's coming from. Show me the other side of the ledger here. Say the word. There's only one. It begins with a "T."

Because here's the thing: you have picked up the mantra of those supply-side theorists who have been repeating it mindlessly for the past thirty years. You repeat it mindlessly yourself. I suspect this, too, like the Iraq war, has something to do with avenging your Dad and his electoral defeat by that despised plebian man from Little Rock, Arkansas. "Read my lips, no new taxes." He said it--your Dad did--so forcefully, so unambiguously, so righteously... and then he saw reason and went back on his word. It sounded the death knoll on his adminstration. We threw him out, we tax-revolting Americans, and now it's pay-back time for the Bush dynasty. This time you plan to make it stick.

Problem is, the trickle-down theory has now proved itself to be seriously flawed. Whatever was supposed to be trickling down is not. Time and again, the financial figures show the simple truth: under this system, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And yet there you are, Bush, flying in the face of common sense and the unequivocal data: no new taxes, you keep saying, as though the repetition made it true. Will you have the gall to pursue the scheduled items on your agenda: the raid on the social security system and the elimination of the estate tax? Will you really have the balls to push your economic voodoo (yes, Bush: your Dad was right!) down our throats in the face of Hurricane Katrina? Will you continue to strangle the beast of government even at a moment when its need has been made evident for all to see? I wonder.

Or will you have the real guts--the ones it takes to admit a mistake, to change your mind, to reverse course? You have that opportunity at this moment, Bush. It's a great one. It's one that could change the course of your presidency, and make an important mark in the history of this country. It could halt the blindly charging juggernaut of conservative extremism dead in its tracks, and return us all to the path of true compassion, common sense, and economic sanity. What a challenge, Bush! Do you have the courage to go for that lion's roar?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"We're Problem Solvers"

Have you any idea how silly you look, Bush, sitting there with your cabinet at your board room table, flanked by your Cheney to the right and your Rumseld to the left, wagging your finger at the news camera and telling the world what a great, decisive leader you are? "I'll tell you what I'm going to do," you scolded. "I'm going to lead." And, with that irritating smirk, you had the utter gall to say--of yourself and, presumably, the cabinet that surrounded you: "We're problem solvers. We solve problems."

Well, no, Bush. That's not quite how I see it. It's not quite how millions of other Americans see it. It's certainly not how you're perceived in the rest of the world, so far as I can tell. You're viewed not as problem-solvers, but as problem-makers. In Iraq. At the United Nations. And most recently in your federal response to the Gulf Coast disaster.

How do you explain the arrival of life-saving and life-supporting aid at the New Orleans Convention Center--in time to watch the departure of the last of the storm victims who had been sheltered there? How do you explain the arrival of the USS Iwo Jima, with hospital facilities, beds, and medical supplies--too late to receive more than a handful of the sick and injured? How do you explain the presence, in the wings, of thouands of federal troops just waiting for the signal to step in, but lacking the orders to move until days after they were needed. Problem-solvers, Bush? Leadership? When do you finally learn to hold yourself accountable? When do you finally begin to hold accountable those people you appoint to responsible jobs? Jobs, in this case, on which lives depend.

A leader, it would seem to me, would need to have some measure of sensitivity to those he presumes to lead. An ear for suffering. What kind of sensitivity, Bush, leads you to chatter idly about Trent Lott rebuilding his mansion, and being able to sit back again one day and enjoy the view from his porch? Trent Lott? The first among the needy? Or to joke about the wild times you used to have in New Orleans in your younger day? As if anyone, at such a desperate moment, cared to listen to your casual banter and your minimizing of their suffering with trivial, self-centered drivel.

It doesn't help to go down there and kiss another couple of black girls, Bush. I know this sounds harsh, but most everyone I know unfortunately suspects that you're just doing it for the PR. Real leaders don't sit around talking about their great leadership, Bush. They just get ahead and do it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's Education, Stupid

Is this an odd time to be wanting to talk about education, Bush? Not really. It couldn’t have prevented the New Orleans disaster, of course, but it could have made things a whole lot better. On second thoughts, maybe it could have even prevented the worst of it. Had those responsible for the city’s protection from flooding, for example, been capable of broader, more wisely analytical thought, less engaged in petty political turf wars, and less susceptible to conflicting interests, they might have seen the wisdom in coming up with the money needed to do the job. Had both the electorate and the elected been intellectually equipped to hear—and heed—the call of qualified scientists and engineers, the obvious preventative measures might have indeed been taken. And in the aftermath, think what a little reasoned thought could have done to make things easier on both the victims and the rescuers. Ignorance, surely, is the greatest enemy of common sense and civil behavior.

That said, however, no, education is sadly not the key to winning the next election, as Bill Clinton did by focusing on the economy, stupid. What I have in mind, Bush, is far too radical for the electorate to swallow. It’s far too expensive. It would require, um, sacrifice. It would require, I’m sure, a tax increase—something that is not going to sell the American people on their next presidential candidates. It would require a national shift in priorities, a national effort, and national will. But it would, I promise you, in the course of time, address an awful lot of the problems that this country faces.

A fully functioning education system would address the issue of poverty. It would address the issue of racism. The issue of electoral failure. Of the inability of the vast majority of us—it seems to me—to think critically and make rational judgments. It would address the issues of crime, of unequal justice, of prison overcrowding. It would address the issue of drugs far more successfully than any "war." It would help us address the increasingly pressing issue of our deteriorating environment. It would enhance, immeasurably, our image in the world and our ability to behave responsibly as a world citizen. It would improve our ability to communicate, not only with each other—badly needed—but with other peoples, other nations. It would improve the success of our businesses at home and in the world market. An excellent, egalitarian, smoothly-functioning education system would change this country, infinitely for the better. Democracy, Bush--one of your favorite words--depends on it. Without it, democracy is a farce.

And I’m not just talking about absurd little political band-aids like your severely underfunded "No Child Left Behind." I’m not talking about stop-gap measures to make us look better on our test scores. I’m talking about real change, radical change. Gloriously expensive change. About attractive, functioning school buildings EVERYWHERE, including the inner cities and the neglected rural areas—places where children from the earliest age can see our commitment to them, and can’t wait to get to every day. About well-qualified, dedicated, demanding, disciplined teachers, with salaries commensurate with the public service they perform: they should be BETTER paid than any of your politicians. About the ready availability of books, and labs, and equipment of all kinds—including those dreadful, indispensable computers (I’m thinking here of Tom Friedman’s "flat world" theory.) About a fully funded school year, with days and hours in class proportionate to those of other "developed" countries; and with humane teaching schedules for teachers, so that they can approach their work with the needed energy and enthusiasm.

And I don’t want you coming back at me with the usual excuses. Don’t give me that tired old argument about the parents’ responsibility. Of course it’s their responsibility to see to their children’s education. But with the best will in the world, they’re unable to compensate for inadequate buildings and the absence of books and equipment, exhausted and dissatisfied teachers, and children turned off by the obviously care-less, me-first attitude of greedy adults in a society that wants them only tame, and manageable, and undemanding. And kept away from drugs and sex.

And don’t come back at me either with that tired old cliché about "not solving the problem by throwing money at it." That’s just another wonderful excuse for not getting the job done, and it plays well to the uneducated gallery. It’s bullshit, though. You recognize bullshit when you see it, no? A good Texas rancher. So you can tell here, Bush, that I’m talking about major sums of money, major shifts in national priorities, and either a significant tax increase or a substantial cut in the money we spend on weaponry. But if you want a real heritage for your presidency in all this mess you have created in this country and the world, there it is. A gift from me. No charge.

All this inspired by watching the suffering of Katrina's victims. We can and should do better for our people, from the earliest age. This is America, Bush. This is the 21st century. We have the resources. We just seem not to have the will.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day

It's Labor Day, Bush. A day without labor, for me. Sorry about that. For you...? Well, I guess there's plenty to distract you on a day off from our collaboration on these diaries. Tune in again tomorrow. As Arnold notoriously said, in his Terminator role, I'll be back.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Going to the Country

There's a good old tradition in the British parliamentary system, Bush, in times of crisis. You may have heard of it. It's called "going to the country." When a government screws up so badly that it loses the confidence of the governed, it goes to the country--either to reestablish trust with the people, or get booted out on its ear. Would that we had such an arrangement over here!

I say this without ill-will, Bush, though with admitted anger over the current crisis in the United States: we have come to this pitch thanks to the misguided policies and the sheer, unbelievable incompetence of you and your administration. Incredibly, you have managed to take this only surviving (I nearly wrote "former") superpower and render it patently ridiculous, oafish and, yes, seemingly powerless for the whole world to see. We're wriggling around like an overturned beetle with its legs in the air. It pains me to say it, but you have shamed your country. You have brought discord and havoc to its people. You have rashly squandered its wealth and power. (Talk about prodigal son!) You have compromised its security. If you were the CEO of any self-respecting corporation, Bush--even in today's CEO-tolerant corporate world--the board would have fired you and your hand-picked executive team long ago, before this latest travesty.

Or would have demanded your resignation. Not such a bad idea, if it brought along with it the resignations of your entire team. Which is what brought me to think about that grand old British tradition. The whole lot of you should hand in your resignations. You have lost our confidence to lead us. God knows what other challenges the next two-and-a-half years will bring, but I for one do not trust you to appoint a new Chief Justice, now that Rehnquist is gone. No matter the political crisis that would ensure, we'd all be a lot better off in this country and the world at large if you got ready to pack your bags.

So go to the country, Bush. Let the country decide. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that most of us out here in the real world would opt for a change.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Couple of Hugs...

So now, Bush, five days late and a good few dollars short, you find the time to turn up and step off your helicopter for just long enough to hand out a few bottles of water and a couple of hugs for the TV cameras. You even manage a few tears of sympathy.

Forgive my cynicism, Bush, but this is hogwash. At best it awards you a small badge for sentimentality. Personally, I'm not buying any of this soap until it comes with the necessary words and deeds. I need you to stand up and say it out loud: "It's time for the people of this country to make sacrifices. It's time for us all to recognize the ravages of poverty and neglect in our own country, here at home, and the damage that they have done to our national psyche." (If you'd prefer it, Bush, feel free to use the word "soul": it's just as good.) "It's time to review our priorities," you could continue, "and return to the real 'hard work' of government: not cutting taxes and lavishing cash on useless projects, but providing the basic services our people need. It's time to repair that shredded safety net."

As for me, I'll begin to believe you when you go on television to publicly disavow that absurd estate tax cut that's next up on the congressional table, and to reinstate some of those other taxes that you've slashed--to the benefit of none but the wealthiest of your friends. I'll begin to believe you when you can learn to admit to a mistake when you make one--and you have made many, Bush, in the eyes of most Americans--and when you take action to correct it. I'll begin to believe you when you stop making excuses for the bungling of your top executives and send a few of them packing. You could start with your Rumsfeld, whose inept handling of the Iraq war, from its very start, has left us in the current quagmire there. And next in line would be your Michael Brown, who as head of your Federal Emergency Management Agency, has done a royal job of screwing up emergency aid to the victims of Katrina. You can't really think, Bush--can you?--that this man has done "a heck of a job." But then, you probably think that you, too, are doing a heck of a job.

And I'll begin to believe you when your officials stop firing--no, rehire--some of those good people who have tried to warn you, and the American people, of imminent dangers or patent abuses of the public trust, and whose dismissal from their posts you have tolerated. I'll begin to believe you when you cut the rhetoric and talk to us like a man, unafraid of the consequences of speaking the truth. I'll begin to believe you when you look me straight in the eye, without that shifty avoidance and without that smirk.

I'll know when to begin to believe you, because I'll hear it in your voice. Until that time, Bush, don't ask for any more slack from me. Don't hand me any more of your lame excuses. Don't try to tell me that no-one could have anticipated the destruction we've just witnessed in New Orleans. It's not true. It's another in the long list of untruths that you have been responsible for. And I for one can't tolerate your refusal or your inability to see the plain truth in front of you and tell it, as they used to say, like it is.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Whole Dome Thing

Bill Clinton says this is not political. I don't believe it, Bush. Not for one moment. Your Dad gets up there in front of the whole nation and blathers on blithely about "the whole dome thing," as though this were some minor irritation to the patrician classes. This escalating disaster is not about some unforeseeable act of nature: it's about the country's lack of preparedness to help its poorest citizens, and about their rage at being abandoned. And that's political. It's a long series of decisions to protect and benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor. It's the policy of America, and Americans, to protect their pocketbooks at all costs against the dire threat of having to pay taxes. It's about willful ignorance and cynicism amongst politicians like yourself. It's about the neglect of well-documented problems for fear of having to spend money on them.

It's also about wasteful and self-serving expenditure. Four years after 9/11 and how many billions of dollars spent on "Homeland Security," Bush, and you deliver... this. Chaos in a major American city, five long days after disaster struck. Inability to provide food and water to our citizens, let alone medical services and sanitation. Looting, rape, and violence rampant. And likely murder...

So what's with your Homeland Security? Was this not to be the answer to the threat of terrorism? Preparedness? And the New Orleans catastrophe could so easily have been a terrorist attack. A few pounds of explosive, nicely placed, and kaboom: same result. The levees breached. New Orleans flooded. People stranded on rooftops. Hospitals inundated. Communications, transportation systems disabled. Death and destruction. In that case, surely, without the benefit of advance warning, things would have been even worse.

A national disgrace. That's the phrase that keeps echoing around this morning. The rest of the world must be looking on in amazement, to see the unprotected underbelly of American society thus exposed. To see people dying on the streets of a major city for lack of medication. To see Americans behave, in desperation, without the least shred of civility or restraint. Don't tell me this is not the result of policies, Bush. Don't tell me it could not have been foreseen.

And don't foist the blame on previous administrations. Sure, this disaster has been years in the making, and there's blame enough to spread around. But you, Bush, were the one who got the wake-up call on 9/11. You're the one who has spent his time in office lavishing money on your war in Iraq without the slightest call on the American people to sacrifice. You're the one who has been busy cutting taxes for the wealthy, while your people in Congress have been busy cutting essential services--like those needed for the protection of our citizens. You're the one who permitted the pork-barrel spending of Homeland Security funds in states that were not remotely threatened, while prime targets like New Orleans saw their budgets for basic needs cut.

Sorry, Bush, I'm not letting you off the hook today. This is the very disaster you should have been preparing for. This is the very disaster your vaunted Department of Homeland Security should have been ready to avert, or at least respond to. And your response is a disgrace, Bush. A national disgrace.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who You Gonna Blame?

I'm thinking about that moment after the 9/11 attacks, Bush, when you stood atop the ruins of the World Trade Center and castigated those responsible, vowing to avenge the country and mete out dire punishment. It was a stirring moment, and one that you have used--some would say shamelessly--as political capital to undergird virtually all your subsequent actions. Now you have to go down there to the Gulf Coast and stand up among the ruins and say... well, something. No one to blame this time, really--unless you feel like laying into the US Congress for recently cutting the funds that were needed to reinforce the levies. Not a good political option, maybe. Or cussing out past officials, for failing to heed a slew of warnings about the evisceration, for commerical purposes, of the protective wetlands in the coastal region. Not really a stirring rallying cry, either. And of course, railing against Mother Nature herself would sound pretty stupid.

How about a "war on global warming," though? Nice idea? If climatologists are correct in assessing some share of the blame for the recently ever more destructive hurricane seasons to a proven change in global climate, maybe this would be just the ticket. Another war for the "war president." Somehow, though, I don't see this as quite fitting in with your agenda. Good luck with that speech tomorrow, anyway. And try to avoid the repetition of those empty phrases that we talked about this morning. (Take a look at the lead editorial in today's New York Times: "one of the worst speeches" of your life! Ouch!) Your speechwriters have to know that those platitudes just won't work this time around.

Are You Okay?

I'm worried about you, Bush. Really. You're beginning to sound more and more like a robot. Your voice gets more and more distant from whatever it is they're giving you to say. Your speech sounds more and more affect-less, as though you had somehow lost your heart. And the words... I was listening to you yesterday as you spoke about the hurricane disaster on the Gulf Coast and I swear to God you were using the exact same words as those you keep using about Iraq. How difficult it is. How hard the work. How you are nonetheless convinced that we will prevail. How strong the people are. How it may take a great deal of time, but how we will all come out stronger in the end for the experience. I mean, the words were interchangeable with what you say about your war. And the tone... Indistinguishable. Where are you? Have they hidden the real Bush away somewhere, and trotted out this humanoid clone? It's scary. In haste. More later...