"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

SPINNING THE BUSH RESPONSE TO NEW ORLEANS DISASTER

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina’s attack on the Gulf Coast, the mainstream media began to cover the disaster in a manner favorable to the Bush administration. Chris Matthews trumped about how much was being accomplished as a super power turned its attention to disaster relief. Wolf Blitzer asked former Senator John Breaux if Bill Clinton was responsible for inadequate funding of levee repair, but he did not request information about George W. Bush’s dismal record. A few days later, media people were so appalled by the enormous disconnect between the official story and what they were seeing, that they actually pointed out this discrepancy and the Bush administration’s failure to respond to the crisis. Soledad O’Brien even asked FEMA director Mike Brown, "How is it possible that we’re getting better intel than you’re getting?" Conservative Jack Cafferty even acknowledged that broadcasters were not mentioning "the elephant in the living room," the possibility that racism had something to do with the slow response to the needs of New Orleans. It would be too much to suggest the mainstream media was growing a backbone, as it soon returned to treating the Bush administration with kid gloves. But still, it provided a few days of honest reporting that gave every American the opportunity to see just how badly the Bush administration had dealt with the catastrophe.

A September 6 CNN poll showed that 63% of Americans believed no federal official should be fired in connection with the slow response to the New Orleans disaster. Thirty-five percent thought Bush’s handling was good or great. These were people who were simply incapable of believing the Bush administration could bungle anything this serious. Forty-two percent thought the president’s performance was bad or terrible. Among independents , 29% approved Bush’s performance, and 47% disapproved. That many more people did not find Bush’s performance bad or terrible is a tribute to the exceedingly effective Republican spin operation and the simple fact that the community values of Franklin Roosevelt are being edged out by those of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Bill O’Reilly, on his September 9 telecast, told his conservative followers that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were responsible for the disaster in New Orleans. In view of the federal government’s incredibly slow response, it is clear that the GOP noise machine needs to craft a message to distract attention from this failure of the Bush administration. O’Reilly usually mirrors the party line to a fault, so his broadcast may have been a trial balloon. This time the default response of blaming Clinton did not seem to work.

Republican commentator identified the main theme of the GOP response when he said, ""I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9/11 victimes" [ who dared to criticize his Leader]. He called the people who remained in New Orleans "scumbags." The American Spectator, which often tests new Republican positions, emphasized New Orleans’s historically high crime rate without linking it to deep poverty. The blame-the-victim approach was helped by the fact that almost all the victims in New Orleans seemed to be black and very poor. Senator Rick Santorum blamed the victims for not leaving the city. Too much of the television coverage focused on lawlessness that did occur after the hurricane and flooding, and there was too little attention to enduring deep poverty. Rush Limbaugh, the most influential GOP propagandist, harped on the theme that the suffering, stranded people of New Orleans were responsible for their own fate because they did not evacuate. By Saturday, FOX NEWS was focusing almost entirely upon successes that did occur in the rescue operation. The various fact checking organizations kept batting down wild claims about black storm victime, but they kept popping up. A month later, Sean Hannity was talking about victime using FEMA checks to rent condos at Martha's Vineyard, whee $2000 would not go far), buying alcohol ( probably true), and purchasiong many lap dances. Such tales not only deflect attention from Bush's failure, they further diminish the nation's sense of compassion and connectedness.

Much blame was placed on the mayor of New Orleans and Governor Kathleen Blanco. It has been said that the mayor could have saved those left behind by evacuating them on city buses and school buses before the storm struck. Whether he had the resources to do this needs to be examined. Even though Governor Blanco had sent Bush detailed information on what assistance would be needed before the hurricane struck, she has been the target of much criticism. On September 4, The Washington Post acccepted the Republican claim that Governor Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency. In fact, she did this on August 26. It is said–with no evidence- that she delayed Red Cross assistance from reaching New Orleans. Newsweek the same false story and added to it saying, that Blanco "seemed uncertain and sluggish, hesitant to declare martial law or a state of emergency, which would have opened the door to more Pentagon help." The delaying of the Red Cross was the work of FEMA, and the governor had declared a state of emergency and requested help--several times-- before disaster struck. The Post later printed a correction. Given they had been party to printing lies and political propaganda, both publications should have outed their White House source.

Blanco resisted having the Louisiana guard federalized because that would place too many restrictions on them in keeping the peace. Her reasons for taking this position were never mentioned by GOP critics. She is also denounced for at first refusing to meet with Bush when he traveled to the area on September 9. The truth was that she had not been informed of his itinerary.

Bush’s visit was a masterpiece of PR. He hugged two comely, well-dressed African American women. Fifty fire-fighters from the North were diverted to pose with him, and a Coast Guard helicopter was diverted to be used as a prop. He was photographed at a hastily assembled food distribution point, which German ZDF news reported was quickly disassembled as soon as he left. Senator Mary Landreau, a conservative Democrat, referred to another Bush appearance that day as "a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity." When Bush appeared at the breached 17th Street levee, there was a great deal of equipment there. When the Senator flew over the site the next day, the assemblage of machinery was reduced to a "lonely piece of equipment." Several days before, Michael Brown bragged at a news conference that his agency was feeding everyone at the still crowded New Orleans Super Dome. The New Orleans Times-Picayune, publishing on line, retorted that "Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that...." Yet, Bush subsequently praised "Brownie," saying "You’re doing a heck of a job."

The trouble is that the Bushies are "doing a heck of a job" with spin, covering up their poor performance. In time, a substantial number of Americans may come to see George W. Bush as the Second Hero of New Orleans!

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!