Jesus, I'm Not Made of Stone
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
Last night Doc and I watched the President on TV. We had tuned in to watch a rerun of CSI, but discovered it was pre-empted by the Commander in Chief. Out he walked from the City Hall on Jackson Square in New Orleans wearing a blue dress shirt and Dockers. He strode across the grass, past a statue of Andrew Jackson on a horse, to the presidential podium, took hold of the sides, looked straight into the camera and apologized.
Doc asked me if it was necessary to watch this. I said that yes it was, since I knew the President was going to apologize. In my mind, I thought it would be great fun to watch him eat crow. But I stopped myself from letting schadenfreude take hold, Alice. I wanted to listen objectively. I wanted to hear what he had to say without applying any mental filters on his words. I figured, if he was going to apologize for something then I will do him the courtesy of listening without prejudice.
As I listened to him describe how we were going to rebuild New Orleans and the surrounding areas and build it better than it was, I thought, yes, he'd better rebuild. The people of the region deserve that much, after their shoddy treatment. As I listened to him describe all the work and money he was offering evacuees and local governments, I had this image of a truly penitent man. Here is a guy who is going to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to rebuild a city that, through his typically laconic response to emergency, he helped to destroy. I tell you, I was moved, Alice.
And he offered an apology. Here was this Average George American, just like me, apologizing and pledging not only to rebuild but to rebuild better. He intends to city-plan the economic disparities right out of existence. He offered federally owned land for free to people who want to return and rebuild. He listed plan after plan about how they would rebuild the region just as we rebuilt Chicago after the fire and San Francisco after the earthquake because we are a nation of people who care about each other.
He described the heroism of the people involved in the disaster. He moved Doc and me to tears with the descriptions of their acts of selflessness and courage. I turned to Doc and said, "You know, he's doing the right thing." He was truly penitent and in a selfess act of atonement, he pledged to mobilize the country towards rebuilding such a unique and special city. And we would all pull together to support it. We would be a model for the world of generosity and democracy in action. Everyone would realize that we weren't so bad.
He had me at "I apologize."
He then lost me when he implied that this type of disaster would be better handled if there were "greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moments notice." How about following the existing laws that require you to hire qualified people to run all federal posts? I'm just saying. Also, I died a little bit inside when he announced the decision that an internal team would investigate the poor handling of the disaster instead of an independent one. I was truly disappointed, though not surprised by both of his demands. I had a familiar sinking feeling when I listened to him.
Having had our fill of naked power grabs, Shawn and I shrugged our shoulders, put in a DVD of M*A*S*H and called it a night, feeling somewhat secure in the hope that the democrats would temper his plans, both for the outrageous amounts of money he wants to spend and the volumes of power he wants to stuff in his pockets. And we can sleep safe with the knowledge that nothing has really changed.