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The Sound Of Silence
That's the sound George Bush made when presented with the details on the raging waters of an impending national disaster. The man didn't ask a single question. Nope. Lips zipped...okey dokey...next? John Dickerson writes on Slate that he bought the PR version of Bush as The Great Interrogator until he got a load of Bush in action. Well, if being mute in the face of national disaster can be called "action":

You know you're in trouble when Michael Brown outshines you. But the president's question-free briefing is more than a momentary bad piece of public relations. It's a blow to a key Bush myth. The Bush management philosophy relies on him as an interrogator. He delegates, but that's OK because he knows how to question those he empowers to make sure they're focused. Question-asking is also a central public tool in the "trust me" presidency. We aren't supposed to worry that the NSA wiretapping program goes too far because the president has asked all the questions. When the president was wrong about the level of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the strength of the insurgency, it wasn't because he didn't ask enough questions, we have been told, it was because he was given the wrong answers.

Bush has long been criticized for being incurious. That isn't always a bad thing. A president can be uninterested in visiting the Taj Mahal if he's laserlike behind the scenes. Perhaps the Katrina briefing was an aberration. But I worry that it isn't. Those in the room with him during other briefings also say he didn't ask very sharp questions then, either. Former anti-terrorism official Richard Clarke and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill both wrote about Bush's lack of curiosity. L. Paul Bremer's account of his 14 months in Iraq as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority inadvertently paints a similar picture. In briefings, Bush offered a pep talk—"pace yourself, Jerry"—and questions about tangential issues like whether the new Iraqi leaders would thank the Americans for their sacrifice. George Packer didn't work for Bush, but his book The Assassin's Gate paints a grim portrait of what happens when the president doesn't ask the right questions: Factions within his administration take over and pursue their own agendas.

A White House spokesman told the AP that in this specific case the president had already received multiple briefings. Aides also leaked a transcript to Newsweek of another briefing in which Brown tells others that the president is engaged and asking questions. (Though they didn't release any transcript that actually showed Bush asking those questions, just Brown's secondhand account.)

But shouldn't talk of catastrophe in the briefing AP acquired have spurred the president's interest—no matter how many previous briefings he'd received? Was Michael Brown such a good briefer that everything was clear? I don't know what question the president should have asked, but shouldn't he have asked something?

What I want to know is whether all the people who voted for Bush and have trumpeted his greatness (or at least thought he was doing a reasonably good job) through all the shitstorms of phony intelligence and Katrina and all the rest...still think so. And sure, Kerry was no choice at all, but let's say John McCain or somebody generally believed to have a brain and some semblance of character were running today. Would all you Bush voters go for your man now in office or would you opt for a better class of candidate?

Posted by aalkon at March 3, 2006 9:01 AM

Comments

> whether all the people who voted
> for Bush and have trumpeted his
> greatness

There are no such people. Lots of us voted for him, few thought him great when doing so.

> McCain or somebody generally
> believed to have a brain

Well, WHO? And why wasn't this person running against him in real life as well as in rhetorical scenarios?

ALD linked to a Salon article about impeaching Bush by the Minnesota radio guy whose name escapes me for the moement KEILLOR. ANd I only read the opening graphs, because it was deeply, deeply pathetic... A lot of people are in a psychokarmic death dance of hatred for Bush, and it's warping their measure of reality's boundaries. ('He doesn't ask enough questions! I don't like his PERSONALITY! He's not CURIOUS enough!')

Who really, really wanted to spend money on the levies BEFORE late August 2005? Show yourselves! Stand up and be counted! Who really, really expected the federal government to make things better when the weather turned shitty?

Posted by: Crid at March 3, 2006 12:45 AM

And sure, Kerry was no choice at all, but let's say John McCain or somebody generally believed to have a brain and some semblance of character were running today.


The problem is, I only get to vote in the real world, and -- like you say -- Kerry was no choice at all. You voted for whom?


Posted by: Oligonicella at March 3, 2006 7:13 AM

I voted for Kerry, barf-bag in hand. As I told somebody about the election: "I loathe John Kerry, but I'd rather vote for an autistic monkey than that fundamentalist, anti-science George Bush."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 3, 2006 8:58 AM

If it was made clear to Bush that the levees in New Orleans needed work, my question would be why is this the federal government's problem anyway? Why not the state of Louisiana, or the city of New Orleans? Bush's response to this information doesn't mean much to me, because I don't see it as having been his responsibility to act.

In other news, why don't any of you guys vote for a third party, if the two major parties are so bad? If you're willing to keep voting for red or blue crap, why should you get anything but more of the same? What they need is some competition.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at March 3, 2006 9:53 AM

Some simple facts:

FEMA is a management agency, not a response agency. State and local agencies, not FEMA, are supposed to be the first responders in a large-scale emergency.
Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco told President Bush, incorrectly, that there were no confirmed reports of levee breaches: "We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee. I think we have not breached the levee at this time."
The levees were built by the Army Corps of Engineers. The state of Louisiana was responsible for their maintenance.
Quoted from http://gus3.typepad.com/i_am_therefore_i_think/2006/03/wow_that_was_fa.html

The longer people stick to the media cover-up, helping Blanco and Nagin do the CYA trick, the longer they/you remain in the dark about the truth. Why would you rather hold onto and continue the lies, rather than admit that Bush isn't the ass you all think he is????? That's the real question!

Posted by: Shamoo at March 4, 2006 8:59 PM

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