Democratic Underground

We Know What You Did This Summer

September 7, 2005
By Nancy Greggs

In this past week of tragedy, anguish and death, Bush & Co. couldn't care less about the people who were living in hell. Well, that's no surprise to most of us. Been there, seen that. Just like they don't care about the soldiers they've sent to die in Iraq, or the innocent civilians there who have had their country turned upside down to the point of civil war. Just like they don't care about the millions of Americans they've forced into poverty, the people who have lost their jobs due to their policies.

So tell us something we didn't already know.

But this week, there was a more than obvious difference to their indifference. In a definite departure from the norm, they didn't even bother to fake it.

They didn't start the week off with photo-ops of the president hopping onto Air Force One, wearing that well-rehearsed look of concern on his face, winging his way back to Washington to "‘take charge." There were no press conferences held by Condi, or Dick, or Rummy, within hours of the disaster, assuring the citizenry that they were on the job.

No, this week there was something else in the photo-op line-up. Bush strumming a guitar with a country singer, Condi taking in a Broadway musical comedy, good ol' boy Georgie sharing a birthday cake with McCain; photographs of people enjoying themselves while American citizens, the ones they've sworn so often to protect from any catastrophe, went without food, without water, without help – without hope.

And make no mistake about it. This was not the usual paparazzi fare, taken from behind a garbage can in an alley somewhere, the subjects unknowingly caught in the act. No, these were frame-worthy photographs of our dear president, the kind you'd have autographed and send to your Grandma, to be hung with reverence and respect in the front parlour. Too bad Grandma will never appreciate the gesture. You see, she was left to die, slumped in a wheelchair full of her own excrement, waiting for help that, for her and thousands of others, never came.

One might think that some kind of contagious form of stupidity had spread through the Administration and its minions, some form of temporary amnesia that caused them to forget the PR angle, forget the political fallout, forget the impact these photographs would have on Americans across the nation, and on people around the world.

But I, for one, am not buying the stupidity-cum-amnesia theory. These people are too smart. These are the folks who managed to smear a decorated war hero while convincing American voters that a bumbling draft-dodger was the obvious choice for commander-in-chief. They're the folks that came up with a never-ending list of reasons-du-jour for going into Iraq. These are the professional Rapunzels who, given a minute's notice, can spin even the filthiest straw into gold.

I don't doubt for a second that there were advisors, albeit of a lesser class than Cabinet members and others of the inner circle, who stated the obvious: "Mr. President, playing the guitar and laughing, while people in Mississippi are dying, might not sit too well with the public," or, "Ms. Rice, maybe you should shop for shoes another time." Maybe even a PR-savvy underling who saw an opportunity to undo those plummeting poll numbers: "Mr. President, people might forget this whole Cindy Sheehan thing if they see you in Louisiana, with your sleeves rolled up, acting like you give a shit."

And you can also picture, without too much effort, the seasoned professional spinmeisters assuring the naïve and uninitiated that everything was under control, reminding them that there are dozens of people who they could blame after-the-fact, like the local authorities, the military – hell, even the victims themselves.

Why this lack of concern about how the antics of the past seven days would play in the press? It's a complex question with a simple answer: Because this administration is now arrogant enough to believe that no matter what they do, no matter how crassly they act, no matter how inhumane their demeanour, the American public will conveniently forget, or, out of unquestioned loyalty, will silently and deliberately look the other way.

Even after the outrage of ordinary, caring citizens drove Bush to the disaster site and Condi back to Washington, they still couldn't be bothered to play their parts with even a modicum of propriety. Bush stood literally feet away from sick and dying evacuees, and joked about his youthful escapades in NOLA back in the day. Condi arrived at a rescue centre, dressed in her designer suit – white, of course, in dramatic contrast to the people surrounding her, who had just spent a week living in filth and squalor – smilingly grasping the hand of a wheelchair-bound survivor, holding her pose for several seconds as the photographers did their work, ever mindful of how bad she can look in one of those fuzzy, out-of-focus shots.

Well, here's the scoop, Mr. Vacation Boy, Ms. Spamalot, Mr. Gone Fishin' VP: America noticed.

America watched closely as you smiled into the camera, as closely as they watched people dying of dehydration and lack of food. America watched, dumbfounded, as you partied and shopped for footwear, as you posed for the TV cameras and congratulated yourselves on a job well done. America watched as their fellow citizens begged for a drop of water for a dying neighbour, or a mouthful of food for a hungry child.

And for once, God be praised, even your own didn't look the other way. Even the media, who have ignored your posturing for too long, turned the spotlight on your utter indifference. Even your most loyal network cheerleaders publicly shook their heads in disgust.

In the weeks and months to come, as the bodies of the people you let die are slowly retrieved and properly laid to rest, we'll hear your excuses, we'll watch your finger-pointing, we'll listen to your well-practiced speeches about how grief-stricken you are.

But there are those photographs. Your own inhumanity, captured forever in photographic splendour, etched forever on the minds and hearts of all Americans, a Kodak moment that all the spinmeisters in the world will never, ever be able to undo.

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