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Morning Report 9/7/05The POTUS As Putz


Payback time: World sticks its thumb in Bush’s eye


All this talk about comparing George W. Bush‘s performance post–Katrina with his performance post–9-11 leaves me as ill as if I’d been drinking the water in New Orleans.

The Bush who failed to respond to Hurricane Katrina is the real Bush, the plodding, hapless guy whose administration was sputtering along until the 9/11 attack gave it the excuse to dust off the neocons’ plans for a new American century.

Apparently, people have forgotten that immediately after the terrorists’ planes crashed into New York City and the Pentagon, Secretary of War Don Rumsfeld and henchmen Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith jumped on Iraq to the exclusion of everything else. My colleague Jim Ridgeway reminded everyone of that as recently as August 23. (Refresh your memory with this passage in Paul Thompson‘s 9-11 Timeline.)

As the planes were hitting, remember, Bush himself froze. He was the nation’s pet goat from that moment on.

He froze during Katrina, as well, and his handlers, shrewd as they are, have no interest in using government to care for the hopeless and helpless. The only hapless person they care to nurture and guide is Bush.

In the wake of Katrina, many Arabs, Jews, Hindus, Muslims — probably even Rosicrucians — have forgotten their immediate conflicts and are finally agreeing on something: The POTUS is a putz.

Except for the poor people in New Orleans, everyone’s finding common high ground. This morning in the Khaleej Times, Dubai’s biggest English paper, Aijaz Zaka Syed cleverly links disasters in “From Mumbai to New Orleans: Bungling with the Basics.” Here’s how he starts:

Recently when a friend censured India’s inadequate response to the rain-induced chaos and misery in Mumbai, the dormant patriotic Indian in me was cut to the quick. I reminded him that Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, was home to nearly 15 million people, which is far more than the population of many countries in Europe. And it is not easy rushing relief to a city this big without generating some complaints here and criticism there.

I was reminded of the challenge Mumbai and its courageous people faced while watching the incredible and disturbing scenes of total devastation and human suffering in America’s South on US television networks. It is hard to believe that the world’s richest and most powerful country, which claims to be the leader of the free world, could bungle so badly on the basics. The world’s only remaining superpower that has taken upon itself the great responsibility of saving and reforming the rest of the world, couldn’t protect its own people in its own backyard.

In Mumbai’s defense, he points out, the scope of the continual rains that hit his nation’s financial capital wasn’t expected even in this monsoon season. Not true in Katrina’s case, he adds:

The Americans, with the rest of the world, saw Katrina build itself up for days as the weathermen on 24/7 TV networks charted the course of the killer storm with incredible precision. The US authorities had all the time in the world to be ready with their aid and rescue missions to save those in the path of the hurricane.

This is why it is rather hard to accept the fact that the US administration couldn’t save and rescue and rush relief supplies to those who couldn’t leave their homes for days on end. While Katrina (what a pretty name for a monster!) lashed the Gulf Coast and the deep south killing thousands and displacing millions, President Bush continued to holiday at his Texas ranch. At a time when his people needed him most, America’s commander-in-chief — as the president loves to call himself — was bicycling his way to glory. How callous and indifferent can you get? But then you get the leaders you deserve — or choose.

Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Haaretz, Gideon Samet connects the Katrina disaster to yet another storm. In “Bush Is Also Wrong About The Israeli Hurricane,” Samet notes the Bush regime’s latest piece of unwarranted aid and comfort to Ariel Sharon:

America finds it hard to remember when a president was so hapless during a national crisis as George Bush has been during the disaster in New Orleans. The White House’s main defense is a neo-conservative ideology that places responsibility on the local authorities. The first neo-conservative president, Ronald Reagan, expressed its formative motto in his catchy way: Get the government off the backs of the people. But with Bush, during a tragic week, the government was a heavy burden on the backs of tens of thousands of groaning people in the dead city. Now, as Bush is advocating a line of policy vis-à-vis the Sharon government, it is best to search for cover.

In an effort to bolster Sharon in the Likud wars, Washington is now asking Europe to get off his back, not to demand that he carry out more gestures to the Palestinians. This request will be conveyed to the European leaders who are coming to the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly next week. The secretary of state will reiterate the request in a meeting with her Quartet partners, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. This is bad advice, lazy, unimaginative and narrow-sighted. It reminds one that during the past decades, the Americans have failed to anticipate almost all of the developments outside of its borders, from the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet upheaval to the Palestinian intifada.

But what good are warnings — like the August 6, 2001 PDB or the Katrina forecasts — when you ignore them for the sake of ideology?

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