Wednesday, September 14, 2005

George W. Clinton

Last night, I produced Anthony Lappe and Paul Rieckhoff's guest-hosting stint on the Mike Malloy Show, on Air America Radio. We had Paul's friend and supporter, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, on the show and he said it's about time Pres. Bush took responsibility for Katrina. The headlines this morning agree with Gov. Ventura, that Bush has, finally, taken responsibility. (Here's a quick glance at Google's crop of representative headlines).

Unfortunately, they've all got it wrong. Bush hasn't taken responsibility for a single thing regarding Katrina, the short-sighted policies that enabled the storm to unleash a flood, or the poor, lethal response to the storm and the flood.

As I keep saying, it's vital to look at EXACTLY what Bush said. He was as precise, and legalistic, as the right always accused Clinton of being. Here's the full text of his pertinent remarks Tuesday on Katrina:

Q Mr. President, given what happened with Katrina, shouldn't Americans be concerned if their government isn't prepared to respond to another disaster or even a terrorist attack?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that's a very important question. And it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and -- so that we can better respond. One thing for certain; having been down there three times and have seen how hard people are working, I'm not going to defend the process going in, but I am going to defend the people who are on the front line of saving lives. Those Coast Guard kids pulling people out of the -- out of the floods are -- did heroic work. The first responders on the ground, whether they be state folks or local folks, did everything they could. There's a lot of people that are -- have done a lot of hard work to save lives. And so I want to know what went right and what went wrong to address those. But I also want people in America to understand how hard people are working to save lives down there in not only New Orleans, but surrounding parishes and along the Gulf Coast.
Let's consider the tip-offs that tell us Bush didn't take responsibility.
1) The question. It was a "yes"-or-"no" question. Find either "yes" or "no" in the answer. When a president doesn't answer a question, it means, as this does, that he used the question as an opportunity to unspool a planned - and precise - talking point.
2) The qualifiers. Bush is supposedly a plain-speaking man. If that's true, then compare what he did say...
Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that's a very important question. And it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and -- so that we can better respond...And so I want to know what went right and what went wrong to address those.
...with what a genuinely plain-speaking, responsibility-taking president could have said:
Katrina exposed serious problems in our response. I take responsibility. I want to know what I did wrong. I want to know how I can better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Am I capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that's a very important question. And it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and -- so that I can better respond...And so I want to know what went right and what I did wrong.
Anyone not get the difference? Anyone not get the difference between, "I take responsibility," and "To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job, I take responsibility"?
3) Don't miss the human shields. In discussing his war in Iraq, Pres. Bush has often responded to criticism of his policies as if it were criticism of the soldiers who are duty-bound to execute them. It is, of course, an un-American argument to make. But it's politically effective, and he uses the same strategy here. No one asked him about the quality of the work done by first responders, but he answers as if he's been called upon to defend them. Look:
Q ...shouldn't Americans be concerned if their government isn't prepared to respond to another disaster... [emphasis added]
PRESIDENT BUSH: ...I'm not going to defend the process going in, but I am going to defend the people who are on the front line of saving lives. Those Coast Guard kids pulling people out of the -- out of the floods are -- did heroic work. The first responders on the ground, whether they be state folks or local folks, did everything they could. There's a lot of people that are -- have done a lot of hard work to save lives....But I also want people in America to understand how hard people are working to save lives down there in not only New Orleans, but surrounding parishes and along the Gulf Coast.
No one questioned it. It wasn't the issue. So why address it at all? To cloak the fact that he's NOT taking responsibility. A president truly taking responsibility for his own failings wouldn't need to defend others whose actions haven't come into question. And the fact that the media didn't see that, and didn't call him on it, heralds the reality that the supposed rebirth of an adversarial media is a temporary illusion already nearing its end.

1 comment:

iWzthnkin said...

Perhaps if the questions were specific enough, he wouldn't have so much leeway. The press is already giving him an out before he replies.
This is unacceptable. Let's start there, say, "You admit responsibility, how will you account for the unnecessary deaths you caused?"

He deserves no less than that.

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