Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bush's Hurricane Speech

Bush did one thing really well in tonight's speech: while acknowledging the problems in America's response to the hurricane, he evoked the courage and heroism of many of the people dealing with the tragedy. It was appropriate, and important, for the president to do that.

Having said that, I should acknowledge that I have never actually been to any of the places devastated by the hurricane. In the case of the 9/11 attacks, the shoe was on the other foot. Living in New Jersey, I was not personally affected by the attacks, but I know people who were. I was shocked when I realized through online discussions with Bush supporters that some of them didn't really want a president who would effectively address the terrorist threat. They wanted a president who would feel their pain. Thus they didn't really care whether Bush bombed al Qaeda or Iraq; the important thing was that America was inflicting damage rather than being the target of it.

This actually makes some sense when you consider that for most people in the red states, the 9/11 attacks were something rather distant events that filled their television screens with disturbing images. Although people in the red states would presumably agree in the abstract that the Unites States needs to address the threat of terrorism, it's pictures of heroic American soldiers toppline the statute of Saddam Hussein which address the problem that is most immediately bothering them: that they don't like images of America being attacked to dominate their TV news coverage.

Thinking about it, I expect that people directly affected by the hurricane weren't impressed by Bush's references to American heroism. They aren't concerned about the image of American incompetence created by the ineffectual response to the hurricane; they are concerned about food, housing, jobs, and the other necessities of life.

Bob Herbert's column in today's New York Times [link requries registration] points out that FEMA seized supplies being shipped to Methodist Hospital in New Orleans:

Everybody's suffering would have been eased if the emergency relief effort mounted by the hospital's owner, Universal Health Services in King of Prussia, Pa., had not been interfered with by FEMA. Company officials sent desperately needed water, food, diesel fuel to power the hospital's generators and helicopters to ferry in the supplies and evacuate the most vulnerable individuals.

Bruce Gilbert, Universal's general counsel, told me yesterday, "Those supplies were in fact taken from us by FEMA, and we were unable to get them to the hospital. We then determined that it would be better to send our supplies, food and water to Lafayette [130 miles from New Orleans] and have our helicopters fly them from Lafayette to the hospital."

Significant relief began to reach the hospital on Thursday, and by Friday evening everyone had been removed from the ruined premises. They had endured the agonies of the damned, and for all practical purposes had been abandoned by government at all levels.

When you consider that the Methodist Hospital experience was just one small part of the New Orleans catastrophe, you get a sense of the size of the societal failure that we allowed to happen.

Welcome to the United States in 2005.

Bush's speech includes some excellent writing, but some of the patients at Methodist Hospital died. Bush's speech won't bring them back to life.


Blogger Susan Hanson said...

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8:38 PM  
Blogger Online Incomes said...

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8:42 PM  
Blogger Kenneth Almquist said...

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9:07 PM  

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