Attila the Pun
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
The Age is going for the ironic look today. We have Tony Parkinson, the last bastion of reason on Spencer Street, with this:
According to his critics, the President can be blamed for causing hurricanes because he ignored the risks of global warming. He can be blamed for exacerbating the consequences of Katrina because he diverted funds and manpower to Iraq. And he can also be blamed for the rape and pillage of New Orleans because his unfair tax policies inflicted on the poor and vulnerable no other choice.
As happened after September 11, the blame game is under way, with Bush cited as the reason for every ill visited upon his nation. The Jonah of the White House. On any calm analysis of cause and effect, of course, much of this hyperventilating is ludicrous, the product of anger, panic or hysteria. Some of it can be put down to partisan point-scoring.
Contrast this with the partisan point scoring by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto on the same page:
Teflon helped Bill Clinton slide out of disasters. George Bush seems coated with armour plating: dense, dull and impenetrable. Terrorists hurl fire and bombs; political opponents let fly insults and derision; Bush's own incompetence bombards him with boomerangs. Most recently, Cindy Sheehan has assailed the President with a mother's tears, which might have found a way to corrode his breastplate or trickle through the chinks. Yet Bush carries on, battered but essentially undamaged.
The undergraduate imagery doesn't improve from here.
Armour, however, is no protection against flood.
I knew Bush's decision to tell New Orleans residents to put on armour was a bad one.
Disasters usually distract critics, silence malcontents, flatter leaders, and improve presidents' ratings. Not this time. Katrina could be the storm that finally scatters Bush's strangely tenacious following.
Note the use of the word "strangely" - Bush has won 2 elections, but Felipe can't for the life of him work out why anybody would vote for him.
It is not just that he has handled the crisis badly. His first response was a bemused look, reminiscent of his mental paralysis at the news of 9/11. He then committed a terrible blunder, telling disaster victims to "take personal responsibility". The individualist message was miscalculated, offensive to the altruism that disasters always ignite.
How is that offensive to altrusim? Is he suggesting that if Bush had have said "don't do anything, the Government will come in and fix everything", things would have worked out uch better?
His gaffes don't end. In storm-torn Biloxi, he referred two distraught women, who collapsed in his arms, to the Salvation Army shelter.
I am not familiar with the incident he is referring to, but it sounds like he did the compassionate thing to me. Sure, he could have milked it - Clinton style - but referring traumatised victims to a Salvos shelter doesn't strike me as a "gaffe".
The terrible truth is now out: the Government cut flood prevention funds to pay for war.
And this "truth" is going to become another article of faith no doubt. File it under "Blood for oil, Plastic Turkeys, 100,000 dead etc".
Countless unbiased journalists have reported how non-government agencies, charitable institutions, and philanthropic individuals took care of Katrina's victims, while the authorities' efforts seemed invisible - as if the whole operation were a gruesome exercise in privatisation.
Does he care to name which journalists he considers unbiased, and by extension, which are biased?
Americans are bound to make a so far unspoken, but glaringly obvious, comparison with the resolve the Government shows when it tackles the President's real priorities: war, power, petroleum, environmental profligacy.
"War, power, petroleum, environmental profligacy" should be the Republicans election slogan in 2008.
For deeper reasons, the present crisis is particularly challenging for Bush. Like his counterparts in al-Qaeda, Bush is a fundamentalist, with beliefs undisciplined by science or reason.
Bush = Osama. You knew it had to get a look in somewhere didn't you.
Under the "yah boo" exchanges of religious and irreligious zealotry lurks a serious issue. Bush has staked his reputation on eco-scepticism. He doesn't believe in global warming. He shelves environmental projects. He despises Kyoto. He dismisses predictions that nature's revenge will swamp human arrogance. After Katrina, Bush's appraisals of environmental threats look worthless.
He hasn't staked his reputation on eco-scepticism, he has just refused to stake his nation's economy on the economic suicide pact that is Kyoto. And if Felipe is claiming that Katrina was caused by global warming, sorry climate change, then his appraisals of environmental threats are also worthless.
Despite the Lone Ranger rhetoric of freedom, amazing reserves of solidarity bind US society. It starts with neighbourliness, swells into civic pride, and becomes patriotism. My university opened its classes to students displaced from the Gulf Coast, helping to lead a similar movement around the nation. Schools where refugees have taken shelter have done the same.
Did the Government force the university to do that? Of course not, the citizenry acted on its own.
Bush, meanwhile, keeps promising a better future, when what the victims want is present relief. His uneasy optimism seems reflected in the gleaming eyes of fat-cat friends, prowling for prospective reconstruction contracts.
A sly Halliburton reference! We truly are in the presence of a master. Wait till KBR gets its first reconstruction contract - the conspiracy theorists (a.k.a. large sections of the Left) are going to be hysterical.
When the terrorists struck on 9/11, Bush could make any number of mistakes, and still gain in popularity, because there were aliens on hand to hate.
They weren't aliens actually - they were middle eastern muslim terrorists.
This time Bush cannot rail against God or, with his environmental record, make an enemy of nature.
So if he had have signed Kyoto, he could make an enemy of nature?
He cannot bomb the sea or invade the wind.
I warned you about the quality of the imagery.
Even in the context of a natural occurrence, where there is no real enemy, people still need to hate and long for vengeance.
Do they? That seems to say more about Felipe than it does about Bush or America. When an earthquake strikes, I have never seen people hating or longing for vengeance. I see people distraught, or thankful to be alive, but not longing for vengeance.
Slowly, inexorably, with a chilling uniformity, the accusing gazes are focusing on the White House.