Wednesday, September 21, 2005

'Lights! Camera! Rebuild!'

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

All you need to know about the overarching strategy of rebuilding the Gulf Coast is two words: Karl Rove.

Why was Rove, without a lick of experience for such a job and whose political skills involve smearing political enemies and creating illusory fantasies about his only client, George W. Bush, made CEO of such an historic project?

Because reconstruction is all about rebuilding President Bush's battered image: no proscenium could be as grand for President Bush's periodic photo-op fly-ins—this week, his fifth since Katrina hit—at carefully staged sites flanked by disaster workers emerging from muck and misery as momentary extras for the commander-in-chief's entrance stage right. CNN and NBC also have opened permanent New Orleans news bureaus to capture Rove theater.

Last Thursday's presidential attempt at empathy in New Orleans was a Rove "blue light" special, with the St. Louis Cathedral bathed in hydrarygrum medium arc-length iodide blue lights brought in especially for the speech.

(I suspect Rove also was named rebuilder-in-chief to discourage a possible grand jury indictment for leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters. The theory: Surely the man rebuilding New Orleans wouldn't be indicted.)

Just as Rove spun Americans and Congress into believing Iraq must be attacked to avenge 9/11 and opposing it would be tantamount to being unpatriotic, the president's casual demand for $62 billion and then another $200 billion for Gulf Coast rebuilding has been rubberstamped.

Why not? Congress wouldn't possibly question such spending after voting a record $268 billion highway bill bulging with pork, including $231 million for an Alaskan bridge-to-nowhere that'll bear Congressman Don Young's name in tribute to his purloining the booty.

And the few naïve Republican critics of Bush's bankrupting spending policies—record debt financed with borrowing in Asia, record deficits, record tax cuts, a costly war in Iraq—are too late with cries for sacrifice and austerity.

The GOP has made excuses and encouraged Bush, whose wild spending is more addictive than his youthful alcoholism. Democrat leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi are totally clueless and useless in any debate over presidential squandering.

Although late coming, the myth that Bush would bring management expertise to the Oval Office has been exposed as another Rove concoction.

The economy is mismanaged. The war in Iraq is mismanaged. FEMA was mismanaged by a hack approved by the president. The environment is mismanaged. And restoration of a disaster area is now masterminded by a man whose finest hour was elevating a ne'er-do-well onetime bankrupt oilman to President.

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