Wednesday, February 01, 2006


You have the ball. Time is running out. You can win the game. All eyes are on you.

You take a shot. It doesn’t go in. Your team loses.

You choked.

It doesn’t matter if you are the best player on the team or the worst. You had an opportunity to make the shot and win the game. But you missed. You choked.

The President had the ball last night. Time had been running out for a while. All eyes in the Gulf Coast were on him.

He choked. Not only did he choke, but he didn’t even take a shot.

In the State of the Union Address, the President chose to not address that part of the Union in crisis. He chose to not address the state of the Gulf Coast.

He said, “Tonight the state of our Union is strong -- and together we will make it stronger.” And there was applause.

He said the state of our Union was strong, when a major city in the Union has entire neighborhoods unfit for living, where the residents are still only allowed to “look and leave” five months after Katrina hit and the levees failed. Power is not restored to the entire city. Gas is not restored to the entire city. Healthcare in the city is crippled. Half of the residents haven’t returned or can’t return. Almost 3000 trailers are acting as homes for residents who have returned and 17,000 more have been requested. Some streets are still blocked by houses knocked off their foundations.

And that’s just New Orleans, not including St. Bernard, St. Tammany, and Plaquemines Parish, and the rest of the Gulf Coast hit by Katrina and Rita.

Yesterday, more than during any of his other SotU addresses, an entire region was watching to see what the President would say about its future. This is what he said:
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency -- and stays at it until they're back on their feet. So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We're removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived.

In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child, and job skills that bring upward mobility, and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity. (Applause.)
The first sentence is obvious. A “hopeful society” – any decent society – *should* do those things. And the second sentence – well, I have my problems with the $85 billion number. If it is legit, it is still not enough for the region. The next two sentences describe things the federal government is doing, but many in this part of the world would say it is not doing well or fast enough.

The rest is dedicated to scolding us for our pre-Katrina inadequacies, for excluding our residents from the “promise of our country.” The President’s answer to our current hurricane-related troubles is not “temporary relief.” Rather, he would like to solve all of our social ills instead of the immediate problems caused by a natural disaster and poorly built levees.

But nothing about our future. He didn’t say “never again.” He didn’t even repeat his pledge to do what it takes. He is our leader, but he lead us no where. He didn’t even point to the way out.

By telling the Gulf Coast residents what a “hopeful society” does, he is telling us what the federal government won’t do. This administration feels it has done enough and it is time for the “hopeful society” to take over.

In his 53-minute speech, Iraq was mentioned 15 times. New Orleans, twice. The Gulf Coast, once.

I’m glad everyone else is living in such a strong Union. We in this part of the world are jealous.


ashley said...

He's like Chris Webber, calling for a time out when he's run out of them.

Ray in New Orleans said...

He wants us to be a hopeful society, as in "Gee, I hope there isn't another hurricane this year."

RK said...

We don't have to worry about Washington. We control the oil and natural gas. You missed the main point of Bush's speech as far as Louisiana is concerned: the country is "addicted to oil." Addicts are desperate people & we have control of a big part of their supply
That's why we need to tax refineries and get our fair share of oil revenues from offshore.
Governor Blanco took the first step: See here.

Carson W. Maxwell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carson W. Maxwell said...

He probably thought that people on the Gulf Coast still don't have electricity. ("Certainly, they won't be listening to my address!") Perhaps that's why he invited Blanco and Nagin to the event-- or maybe it's because he wanted to deliver another slap to their well-deserving faces. Regardless, we were listening and realize the apparent commitment, or lack thereof, he has for our region. So what? He won’t be running for any office in the future.

Jean Lafitte said...

I'm guessing you got that last quote from an official prepared version, which is passed out to the papers before he actually speaks. Because I opened my NY Times today and read that passage, "In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country..." and said to myself, wait just a minute here!!

I listened to the entire speech, an act of great self-sacrifice I can assure you, just to find out what he would say about us. I could swear I never heard the sentence I just quoted, and a friend I was watching with says he doesn't remember it either. I didn't videotape it -- self-sacrifice goes only so far -- but I really don't remember it.

What a disgusting, weaselly thing to do!! The Times, which historians will use as the definitive source, prints the prepared version, with the sentence that shows the closest thing he ever shows to recognition of the inequities revealed by the disaster. So he gets credit for that in the history books. But then he drops it from the speech as delivered and doesn't have to deal with the effects of millions of people actually hearing him say it!

What a snake.

da po' boy said...

Yeah, he said it. Check the link I provided for the SotU and it will take you to where they provide the video of the speech. Go about one hour and two minutes in. However, I wouldn't put it past this White House to manipulate the transcripts.

bayoustjohndavid said...

Rereading the SOTU address and Bush's Jan. 12 speech (first time I heard the $85B,and it still sounded like 86 to me), he's (or his speechwriter) the only person in Washington who seems to realize that there's fuzzy math involved. He never says "has allocated", pols of both parties do and the press does.

Jean Lafitte said...

Po' boy: Thanks for the clarification. I'll take your word for it, as there's no way I will sit through that again. Or even fast-forward.

I've been suspicious of "official" versions of speeches ever since I read a wonderful book about the humorous riches to be found in the official Congressional Record. Sorry I can't give you a title, but I've long since lost the book.

If you ever watch Congress on C-SPAN, you will often see House members saying, after speechifying for a few moments, "I request permission to revise and extend my remarks." This is always granted, and the Congressional Record, which is supposed to be the accurate record of what happened on the floor, is adjusted to whatever the Honorable Member wants it to say.

In the 70s, one honest Congressman (!), having received such permission, had his statement put into the official record, but then added [and I must paraphrase from memory], "It may appear from the Record that I made the previous remarks in a ringing speech on the floor of the House, but the fact is that I made them sitting alone in my office at night, typing away on my hot little typewriter."

I would eagerly vote in an instant for any congressman with that much honesty and sense of humor about himself. Pity we don't find them in Louisiana.