president is Lucy, and he's holding a football.
We're Charlie Brown.
an eerily lit, nationally televised appearance
outside the historic St. Louis Cathedral in New
Orleans, President Bush promised the world to
the Gulf Coast residents whose lives were upended
by Hurricane Katrina.
seemed to be saying that no effort, no amount
of money, would be spared. Two hundred billion
dollars? No problem. This will be bigger than
the Marshall Plan. The end of the rainbow is here.
the area hit by the hurricane," said Mr. Bush,
"we will do what it takes, we will stay as long
as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities
and their lives."
country has put its faith in Mr. Bush many times
before, and come up empty. It may be cynical,
but my guess is that if we believe him again this
time, we're going to end up on our collective
keisters, just like Charlie Brown, who could never
stop himself from kicking mightily at empty space,
which was all that was left each time Lucy snatched
the ball away.
March 2003, in another nationally televised address,
the president told us we had no choice but to
go to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein was
sitting on "some of the most lethal weapons ever
devised." So we went to war, even though Saddam
had not attacked us, and now - two years and $200
billion later - we're stuck there. Close to a
couple of thousand brave men and women have come
back in coffins (no pictures, please) and thousands
more have been maimed.
weapons? As Emily Litella would have said, "Never
the same lavish way that Mr. Bush is promising
to rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the storm-damaged
Gulf Coast, he assured us and the rest of the
world that the invasion he was ordering would
lead to the rebuilding of Iraq and its devastated
economy. "Freed from the weight of oppression,"
he said, "Iraq's people will be able to share
in the progress and prosperity of our time."
last Thursday, the very same day that he delivered
his speech in New Orleans, the World Bank released
a report showing that the continued violence in
Iraq had frightened away private investors, slowed
reconstruction and disrupted oil production.
Times reported yesterday that even in Najaf, an
Iraqi city often cited by the U.S. as a success
story, American officials have acknowledged that
reconstruction projects "are hobbled by poor planning,
corrupt contractors and a lack of continuity among
the rotating coalition officers."
have shown that over the past two years Americans
have lost a great deal of faith in Mr. Bush, who
tends to talk a good game but doesn't seem to
know how to deliver. Thursday night's speech was
designed to halt that slide.
Mr. Bush's new post-Katrina persona defies belief.
The same man who was unforgivably slow to respond
to the gruesome and often fatal suffering of his
fellow Americans now suddenly emerges from the
larva of his ineptitude to present himself as
- well, nothing short of enlightened.
only was he proposing a Gulf Coast Marshall Plan,
but he was declaring, in words that made his conservative
followers gasp, that poverty in the U.S. "has
roots in a history of racial discrimination which
cut off generations from the opportunity of America."
you were listening to the radio, you might have
thought you were hearing the ghost of Lyndon Johnson.
"We have a duty to confront this poverty with
bold action," said Mr. Bush.
was being Lucy again, enticing us with the football.
But before we commence kicking the air, consider
president has had zero interest in attacking poverty,
and the result has been an increase in poverty
in the U.S., the richest country in the world,
in each of the last four years. Instead of attacking
poverty, the Bush administration has attacked
the safety net and has stubbornly refused to stop
the decline in the value of the minimum wage on
can believe that he's suddenly worried about poor
people if you want to. What is more likely is
that his reference to racism and poverty was just
another opportunistic Karl Rove moment, never
to be acted upon.
Brown's sister, Sally, once asked how often someone
could be fooled with the same trick. She answered
her own question: "Pretty often, huh?"
Posted: September 22,