Sunday, September 04, 2005

Vacationing through an apocalypse

From Howell Raines' column published today:

This president who flew away Monday to fundraisers in the West while the hurricane blew away entire towns in coastal Mississippi is very much his father's son. George H.W. Bush couldn't quite connect to the victims of Hurricane Andrew, nor did he mind being photographed tooling his golf cart around Kennebunkport while American troops died in the first Iraq war. After preemptively declaring a state of emergency, the younger Bush seemed equally determined to show his successors how to vacation through an apocalypse.

On Tuesday, he urged people to stay where they were, even if their evacuation residence might be the leaking-roof, clogged-toilet Superdome. On Wednesday, as he met by intercom with his emergency team and decided to return to Washington, as Pentagon and Homeland Security promised relief by the weekend, intensive-care patients were dying at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. They had languished for two full days because the overworked Coast Guard helicopter crews available in New Orleans did not have time to reach them.

The populism of Huey Long was financially corrupt, but when it came to the welfare of people, it was caring. The churchgoing cultural populism of George Bush has given the United States an administration that worries about the House of Saud and the welfare of oil companies while the poor drown in their attics and their sons and daughters die in foreign deserts.