Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mary Thomas Watts
September 6, 2005

It’s time to pull over and let some people out.
We’ll need a disembarkation manifest, so here’s mine.

Earning the top spot on the list of chuckleheads we gotta lose is Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, swiftly followed out the tailgate by FEMA Director Michael Brown.
The magnitude of Katrina’s destruction was surpassed only by the blundering incompetence of these two Bush-crony bureaucrats who were supposed to know how to respond to a national disaster.
Maureen Dowd, of the New York Times, understated the case when she called Brown, of FEMA, “a blithering idiot,” and Chertoff deserves to go down in historic infamy alongside Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned, and President George W. Bush, who was photographed gaily strumming a guitar on Tuesday, August 30, while the deadly waters rose in New Orleans.
Attention! Will the following high-profile persons please step up and take your exit pass as your name is called:
Vice-president Dick Cheney, who, as of Labor Day, hadn’t uttered the first peep about the cataclysm in the Coastal Southeast.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who took in a Broadway musical comedy and shopped for designer shoes, in Manhattan, while thousands perished.
Rush Limbaugh, who is running lower on the milk of human kindness than the Hattiesburg BP is on regular unleaded.
Karl Rove, who stayed behind in Crawford so he could party with the anti-Cindy Sheehan people.
Next off, any-dadgum-body who ducks, dodges and makes lame excuses for the shameless performance of Homeland Security, FEMA and the White House. We all saw what happened that shouldn’t have and what didn’t happen that should have, and we’re not about to forget it.
The duck, dodge, lame excuse rule goes double for Bush 41 and Bill Clinton, who need to stick to fundraising for the relief effort and leave defending the administration to Karl Rove, who hasn’t met a human tragedy he couldn’t exploit to boost his president’s approval ratings.
I’m also particularly anxious to deposit on the roadside members of the press--print and electronic--who commit the following offenses against our collective sensibilities:
1. Professing shock at the poverty they see in New Orleans and on the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts. Matt Lauer, et al., are way too sheltered for their--and our--own good.
2. Telling us how great President Bush is one-on-one. The president hugging hurricane victims is to this unfathomable disaster what his turning up in Baghdad with a plastic Thanksgiving turkey was to the War in Iraq. Save your film.
3. Anointing a super hero prematurely. As inspiring as it is to hear Lt. Gen. Russell Honore cuss in a Cajun accent, barking at the National Guard to put down their blankety-blank weapons, “You’re not in Baghdad,” we’ve just begun to see the faces of true courage, and heroes will be legion.
You gotta hand it to Lt. Gen. Honore, though, he’s already given us some great sound bites, like, “We’re not stuck on stupid,” which somebody ought to put on a bumper sticker. (Or maybe they already have, and that’s where he got it.)
We’ve made a pretty thorough sweep here, so re-assigning the vacated seats is the next order of business.
Everybody responding to the immediate crisis with sacrifices of time, talent and money, come aboard.
Politicians and disaster management experts with the will and expertise to fix what’s so obviously broken at FEMA and Homeland Security, hop on.
It’ll be a squeeze, given how many countries have offered help (Canada, Cuba, Iran, Germany, Kuwait, Great Britain and Afghanistan, to name just some), but nations traveling together is the world’s best hope.
Journalist and author William Greider said, “Everyone’s values are defined by what they will tolerate when it is done to others.”
I don’t know about you, but my hair is still on fire over what my fellow Americans suffered in their darkest hour.
Enough, already, from the White House about “an army of comfort” and “the armies of compassion.”
As Wilmington High School Hurricane Editor Michael DiBiasio asked, “Why does everything always have to be an ARMY with him?” Why, indeed.
We’re way short on competent leadership in this country, and it’s our own fault. It’s also up to us to change the situation.
I guess you might say we’ve got openings for drivers.
How about we give the wheel to somebody with the spirit of that 14-year-old boy, in New Orleans, who sized up the situation, found himself a school bus and drove people to Houston?

Mary Thomas Watts lives in Wilmington and writes for “The Gary Burbank Show,” 700 WLW-AM, Cincinnati.

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