The presidential speech from historic Jackson Square Thursday night was dripping with metaphor as George W. Bush faced his nation alone. He stood, isolated by his handler’s choice to address a country where he is more and more, day by day isolated by plummeting approval ratings.
He took a good deal for granted. “And tonight I offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.” Not a pledge to the American people, but one of. The elemental truth he failed to mention was that he intended to put it all on an American credit-card.
Further along, he said, “In the task of recovery and rebuilding, some of the hardest work is still ahead.” True enough, and then came the clincher. “And it will require the creative skill and generosity of a united country.” Good speech-writing, an A+ for taking yet another American tragedy and fashioning it to personally suit this president’s frantic need to stop the bleeding in his polls. The call for unity is traditionally a call to bring together disparate groups within society, not to pull back a country that has lost confidence in its leader.
Thus was the real purpose of this performance revealed.
“To carry out the first stages of the relief effort and begin rebuilding at once, I have asked for, and the Congress has provided, more than $60 billion. This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis, which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation.” For this our president asks nothing from us financially except a temporary suspension of belief. It’s all on the cuff, the bar is open and drinks are on the house.
“In the rebuilding process, there will be many important decisions and many details to resolve. Yet we are moving forward according to some clear principles.” Among those principles is the lifting of prevailing wage laws, the hundredfold expansion of no-bid procurement limits, the determination to use this latest disaster as a wedge to pound through additional conservative priorities and finally, finally dismantle the last remaining entitlements of the poor. All in the name of unity. All on the cuff. All accompanied by the cry to make permanent the ill advised tax gifts to the rich that distinguished his first term.
“Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.”
Well, it’s hard to find words to comment on that statement. Talk about coming late to the party, these proclamations are more John Kennedy than George Bush. This president has been more uncaring of the poor than any predecessor and it is his compassionate conservatism that has kept the minimum wage at $5.15, about the price of a pack of cigarettes or a couple gallons of gas (if you’re lucky). Confronting poverty with bold action in order to save his political ass is among the most egregious deceptions of the Bush administration. How the working poor of this nation will react to this thinly-disguised misrepresentation is anybody’s guess.
The whole charade in front of Saint Louis Cathedral is an acting out of another metaphor; the man who killed his family and then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan. Having turned away from the poor and blaming their circumstance on laziness, George Bush now claims at the same time and in the same breath that he will confront poverty with bold action.
That bold action is to take away fair wages to save his government money he hasn’t had the courage to ask for in tax increases. A bold plan indeed. Two-faced, misleading and self-serving all come to mind before his own description. There is too much grist in the mill of this speech for one commentary.
Tomorrow, as Scarlett O’Hara said, is another day.