SEVEN MINUTES AND TWO DAYS
Alarm the children? The entire country was in a state of horrified panic. Television had shown two of our tallest buildings struck by planes, crumbling to the ground while people ran for their lives and many, many didn't make it, including brave firemen attempting to help.
However, if George Bush thought that keeping a classroom of children calm was important, perhaps one can't say he was wrong. In a completely disrupted country, filled with people glued to their television sets, sometimes shaking their fists in the air and shouting angrily, it might be good to have at least one classroom filled with calm students. I don't know. I think, if I had been President at this historic time, I would probably have jumped up, book falling to the floor, and rushed from the room. But, fortunately, I was not President.
But it would have been nice to hear the voice of George Bush, our leader, over the airwaves, telling us not to fear, telling us that all would be well, that panic would not help the situation, that America would survive. It seems to me that the entire country should have been as important at that moment as a classroom filled with young students, but who am I to know?
Now, we have a National Emergency, the likes of which we have never seen before. Day after day, we have seen televised pictures of people in the most horrible circumstances, wading through chest deep water, carrying babies, slogging through this deadly pudding of garbage, decomposed humans and animals, gas, debris with a determined and dogged persistence, heading where? Their homes gone, no food, no water, no toilets....these are truly refugees, wandering aimlessly.
Then there were the pictures of the prisoners, placed out in the blazing sun on a bridge, guarded by guards with rifles, waiting, watching, perhaps happy to be out of a cell for a while. There were also the highway sitters on Highway 10, the corridor that leads from Orleans to Florida, just sitting there, waiting for help that didn't come.
In the Superdome, thousands of people sat in semi-darkness, toilets overflowing, water and food scarce, no power, no access to radio or television. They are now being evacuated by a fleet of buses. And it makes one wonder why these poor, elderly and sick people were not evacuated by a fleet of buses BEFORE this storm? Well, I'm not President and I'm not Governor either.
And where is President Bush? After a brief statement..."Help will be provided"....he returned to Crawford, Texas, for another day, cutting his vacation short by two days. But why did he return? Surely he does not pack up his own fishing pole, his own golf clubs. Surely there are people who could do that for him! Surely he could have postponed any social engagement he and Laura may have planned!
One thing George Bush does not do is deliver an inspiring speech at a time of crisis to reassure and comfort the public. I don't know why. I know that there are speechwriters earning a good salary at the White House. And I don't know why his advisors, like that wily, crafty Karl Rove, do not whisper in his ear that his poll numbers might just rise if he acted like a true leader and spoke to his public.
He seems to be obsessed with Iraq. He has come up with a new reason to stay in Iraq every time he does make a speech. Recently, he compared Iraq to World War II. What? No way. Try Viet Nam, a better match. Then, too, he recently said we had to stay in Iraq to protect the oil wells. At five dollars a gallon, we need more protection than they do. Before that, it was a humanitarian war, to topple a dictator. Before that, as we all know, there were the infamous WMD's. About the only reason he hasn't given for staying in Iraq is to "not alarm the children", and that may come up any day now.
The truth is, I think Bush avoids speaking to the public except when he is campaigning and even then he seems to prefer speaking to the military who are a captive audience and must applaud and behave themselves or perhaps be demoted. And he is never going to deliver an inspiring speech. There will be no Gettyburg Address for Bush, nor anything like the glorious speeches FDR and Churchill used to make. We are going to have to do with "Bring 'em on!" or "Mission Accomplished". Nothing else is forthcoming.
But, despite the lack of speaking ability, wouldn't you think he would leap up when given catastrophic news, then stride forward into action? These seven minute waits and vacation days make a catastrophy seem rather mediocre, as though it isn't quite as important as comforting a classroom or stashing away the weedwhacker. And considering that this latest catastrophe has emptied a city, impoverished thousands of people, and has brought the price of gas to record levels....I think a little reaction is needed from George Bush, at least a "Wow! Don't tell me! Imagine that!" or perhaps a plain old "Oh, Shit!"