Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's "mo bettah" George, and it ain't

George Bush slunk into New Orleans Tuesday, got a bellyful of Creole food, and the next day appeared at a school full of elementary school students who certainly weren't going to challenge his lies. He and Laura then fled to Mississippi where his Republican cohorts gleefully thanked him for all the federal dollars diverted their way.

As usual Bush displayed his cowardice by not appearing in a real and open public forum, and he cemented his role as "boy in a bubble," when, as the Times Picayune noted he told those assembled:

"A lot of people down here probably wondered whether or not those of us in the federal government not from Louisiana would pay attention to Louisiana or Mississippi," Bush said during his visit to a gleamingly restored charter school in the devastated Lower 9th Ward.

"In other words, it's one thing to come and give a speech in Jackson Square; it's another thing to keep paying attention to whether or not progress is being made. And I hope people understand we do, we're still paying attention. We understand."

But Bush wasn't seeing the same post-Katrina picture many others do. Again, the president sought Wednesday to refute the belief that progress isn't being made by expressing empathy for those who have trouble seeing it.

"My attitude is this: New Orleans, better days are ahead," Bush said. "It's sometimes hard for people to see progress when you live in a community all the time. Laura and I get to come -- we don't live here; we come on occasion. And it's easy to think about what it was like when we first came here after the hurricane, and what it's like today. And this town is coming back. This town is better today than it was yesterday, and it's going to be better tomorrow than it was today."

I was in New Orleans less than two weeks after Katrina, when I stood on a Jackson Square, empty but for National Guardsmen, and when the streets were lined with refrigerators, sealed against their rotting stinking interiors. I saw St. Bernard parish, and the Ninth Ward, before every house had been thoroughly searched for unlucky victims, and I was astonished at the devastation and loss. I met a resilent Fats Domino in the partially-opened hotel where we were warned not to open our eyes in the shower.

I've returned a few times since, and there is progress, but not enough. Bureaucracy, corruption, racism, hatred and crime still stalk the city like the spectre of death. No one has yet to ride the street car along St. Charles again because repair work has been slow because of the devastation to power lines and poles. I heard the promises George Bush made, and I've watched as those promises have been broken.

While New Orleans, and its officials are not blameless, George Bush is criminally culpable, and he has the gall to smirk and shimy and talk about better days to come.

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