The 10 Ways Bush Screwed New York

A presidential potpourri of cuts, blunders, stonewalls, deceptions, and distractions

Here's a welcome from New York 9-11 Veterans for Truth, a big hello for Republicans from a city hit by a couple of swift jets 35 months—not 35 years—ago. It's matched by just as friendly an insistence that the convention focus on how Bush-Cheney responded to our riverbank assault, rather than on an ancient Mekong attack, where the first test of courage was being there. With the president scheduled to barely show up here all week, wouldn't it be respectful if the delegates and media actually got around town to see just what he's done to us since the bullhorn bravado of 2001? They could start with NYPD Blue, that All-American army deployed all over midtown. There are actually 5,879 fewer city cops than in 2000, partly due to the nearly 90 percent Bush cuts in Bill Clinton's COPS programs. Even with the post-9-11 invention of homeland security funding, NYC is getting $61 million less in federal public-safety subsidies than it did before our cops became America's front line. Bush's 2005 budget proposes even more cuts. Though most conventioneers would prefer to forget it, George W. Bush has slashed the troop strength that host committee hero Rudy Giuliani put on duty.

With the Bush administration also opposing legislation backed by Mayor Bloomberg that would've compensated the city for revenue lost due to 9-11, six firehouses were closed as well. That includes one on 125th Street in East Harlem, an engine company that might well have been summoned to Madison Square Garden in a multi-alarm fire. Of course, should anything catastrophic happen there during convention week, the firefighters whose brothers died on 9-11 will still be communicating on the same, reprogrammed, radios that cost lives three years ago, thanks to a president who refused to pony up the $120 million needed for new ones. Bush has also de-funded the SAFER program even after Congress passed it—blocking NYC from hiring more firefighters—and limited equipment purchases under the FIRE program to a puny cap of $750,000, putting NY's allocation on a par with Poland, Ohio's, with Montana getting $9 per capita for federal firefighter aid and NYC nine cents.

Delegates still mesmerized by that NY's Bravest luster might want stop at another East Harlem landmark—Mount Sinai Hospital—where thousands of Ground Zero rescue workers are still being screened for the lingering effects of their misplaced faith in post–9-11 health advisories emanating from Bush's White House–scripted EPA. Though the first Bush-Cheney commercial featured a flag-draped coffin carried through Ground Zero by firefighters, the administration actually fought the paltry $90 million allocation for Mount Sinai and firefighter screening programs, as if it still believed its own altered press releases about that historic toxic cloud.

photo: Jake Price

Indeed, conventioneers taking a swing by GZ should be sure to visit Battery Park City or Independence Plaza and hear what the 20,000 residents of Lower Manhattan have to say about a White House that thought they or their buildings' owners should clean up the asbestos aftermath on their own. They could even drop in at EPA's NY office just a few blocks away at 290 Broadway—which got a partial super-vacuuming from emergency government crews while the agency decided that virtually no one else who worked or lived downtown was entitled to one.

GOPers who arrive by train, of course, will be taking precisely the same risks passengers did before 9-11: no bag searches, no bridge, tunnel, or even significant station security boosts, with the proposed Bush budget blasting Amtrak and other mass-transit funding like a time bomb. If Tom DeLay had achieved his cruise ship dream-hotel for delegates, they might actually have seen cargo ships pulling into port virtually as insecure as pre–9-11, with a lesser percent of containers inspected than speeders stopped on the Jersey Turnpike. In fact, delegates from Cheney's Wyoming, for example, will have reason to be jittery, leaving a state that gets $40 per capita in homeland security funding to visit a state that gets $10, especially since they will have entered a twilight zone on orange alert for the last 1,080 days or so.

When this attacked city was selected to host the convention way back in January 2003, Bush might have believed he'd come here as a hero, with bin Laden's head in tow, a new tower rising, $20 billion in thank-you's awaiting, and a landslide on the way, beginning in NY. Instead, along the same westside route where Bush was cheered lustily on September 14, 2001, protesters may gather by the hundreds of thousands, a revolution in receptions marking the ugly shift in national spirit that's infected Bush's years. A president who came then to our battlefield as a unifier is returning as a user—turning our city into a carnival rationale for his war and re-election.

The Ten Worst Ways Bush Has Hurt Us

1 Will any convention speaker dare mention the name of Osama bin Laden? What ever happened to Bush's cowboy threat to "smoke 'em" out? Osama, Omar, and Ayman al-Zawhiri became instant and explicit "Wanted Dead or Alive" Bush targets after 9-11, but when the Pentagon came up with a card deck of the hunted, the faces were all Iraqi. The RNC is still replaying the president's bullhorned GZ promise that "the people who knocked down these buildings" would "hear all of us soon," and the president and wife are even now airing a commercial that vows to bring "an enemy to justice before they hurt us again." Who knew when Bush was strapping on that holster three years ago that High Noon would require a second term? Or is Jeb going to get 'em after 2008?

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