Finger Pointing & Blame Gaming -- Where Does The Buck Stop President Bush?

Bush administration media spin doctors like to hit the public with snappy two or three word phrases. This past week, they have been trying to spin the responsibility for the slow response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina away from President Bush. The two main deflection phrases being used from Bush on down to his press secretary Scott McClelland are “blame game” and “finger pointing.” I started hearing Rush Limbaugh sputtering these phrases about Wednesday, August 31. Of course, Rush would use these terms mixed in the same sentence with other terms like “Democrats” or “liberals” or the name of some news person or politician that might have dared utter the slightest criticism of President Bush.

So Rush hammered away with the “finger pointing” and “blame game” and so did the administration – once they all ambled back from a month of vacation. You would be thinking that with an ongoing war in Iraq with a steadily growing death count of American soldiers the President and his cabinet would be sticking a little closer to the command center. I digress…maybe I am a little jealous because I have never had a month long vacation. Anyway, these two two-word phrases have sprouted up all over the news this week. Here are a few examples from the newspapers published on Friday, September 9, 2005.

From the Gannett News Service:

WASHINGTON — The finger pointing over finger-pointing escalated Thursday, even as President Bush declared a national day of prayer to help the country deal with Hurricane Katrina's deadly aftermath…The political atmosphere has turned as toxic as the floodwaters of New Orleans…. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato labeled it "the fastest blame game in history."

Columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. wrote this in column published in various papers across the nation on Friday, September 9, 2005:

The following is brought to you by the word "accountability." Keep that word in mind whenever you hear defenders of President Bush accusing his political opponents of playing the "blame game" by daring to pose pointed questions about why so many people in New Orleans, most of them very poor, had to wait so long for relief from their suffering.
The Bush White House must have run the phrases "blame game" and "finger-pointing" through its focus groups. In his Wednesday briefing, White House press secretary Scott McClellan used variations on those formulations eight times each. McClellan neatly rolled them into a single sentence when he told off a reporter who had the nerve to ask whether the president had confidence in those who oversaw the federal relief effort. "If you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing and blame-gaming, that's fine," McClellan harrumphed.

The Christian Science Monitor ran this story:

Partisan bickering over Katrina escalates - to peril of both sides

Unlike 9/11, when Americans came together, the hurricane's aftermath has intensified the polarization of the Bush years.

By Linda Feldmann Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON – As distasteful as it is to many Americans, the politics of hurricane Katrina have rushed in to fill the agendas of elected officials nearly as quickly as the floodwaters inundated New Orleans.
For the Bush administration, the mantra this week became "no blame-gaming, no finger-pointing" as it sought to recover from the early perception of a slow response to the disaster. The message has been that this is an administration of action, not partisan bickering, and that the task at hand is to address the situation on the ground. President Bush sent Congress a request for $51.8 billion in additional hurricane aid. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, toured New Orleans and the Gulf region Thursday, talking to local officials and first-responders.
Take note that these stories were published on Friday, Sept. 9. Of course, the theme was that it was all Democrats pointing fingers at the Bush administration and making the Democrats the focus of the blame game. Certainly there were Democrats speaking out against the federal response to the Katrina disaster. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., condemned the "staggering incompetence of this national government," during debate Thursday over $51.8 billion in post-Katrina aid proposed by Bush.

Of course, the Democrats were not the only finger-pointing, blame gamers. The Republican National Committee sent an e-mail of a Washington Post story claiming that Louisiana's congressional delegation often pushed spending by the Army Corps of Engineers that had little to do with flood control in New Orleans. One paper noted that Bush and Republican allies have attempted to focus on post-Katrina progress. But some Democrats have charged that while that is the public stance, Bush allies also are handing criticism of state and local governments out the back door.

With the exception of solitaire, most games take at least two to play. By the end of this past week, it certainly appears there was bi-partisan finger pointing and blame gaming. But what I found very interesting is what was happening the week leading up to Labor Day. As I previously pointed out, during the first week of the disaster, Rush was babbling these phases and blaming the Democrats and the leftie bloggers and everybody but the Bush administration. What was actually going on was quite different.

On Wednesday, August 31, the Manchester Union-Leader published this editorial. In case you do not know this paper, it is one of the most conservative daily newspapers in America.

Bush and Katrina: A time for action, not aloofness

AS THE EXTENT of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation became clearer on Tuesday — millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews can’t reach some regions — President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before.
Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage.
A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease.
The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, has vanished. In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty.
Wherever the old George W. Bush went, we sure wish we had him back.
That is rather strong finger pointing aimed at the President, but it is coming from a newspaper. What were actual Republicans saying by the end of the first week of the disaster? Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, “If we can’t respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?” Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts called the government’s response “an embarrassment”.

Senate majority leader, Republican Bill Frist called for congressional hearings, and other Republicans normally loyal to Bush questioned whether the administration could handle a terrorist attack, given its lackluster response to Katrina.

Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, said the federal response suggested flaws in the nation's preparedness for another terrorist assault. Kyl said, ''This damage could just as easily have been caused by a terrorist attack, and many if not most of the same elements are involved in responding to natural disasters. ''There has to be a plan in place -- along with adequate resources -- to be able to evacuate people, or at least provide relief supplies before panic sets in. None of this appears to have been done in Louisiana."
Who was playing the blame game and doing the finger pointing? It appears that President Bush own party members and some of the media that have been his big supporters were major participants. Of course, all the keep key Bush administration players were not really regrouped from vacation until around Labor Day. Then they had to get the spin cycle turning and since then the Bush team has been hammering us with “finger pointing” and “blame game.” I do not know about you, but these phrases strike me as rather junior high school. It is as if the Administration is trying to dumb down the importance of the overall response to this natural disaster to a vocabulary that regular listeners of Rush Limbaugh can use in everyday conversation with their friends and family.

Unless I have missed it on the media coverage, senators and congressional representatives are not down on the Gulf Coast picking up the pieces. They are in Washingotn and I would think now would be an ideal time to establish responsibility, i.e., blame game, of who was in charge of carrying out the disaster plans. Likewise, if individuals are not qualified for their positions and better-qualified individuals need to be brought in, i.e. finger pointing, then why not do it when everything is fresh in everybody’s mind. Maybe the Bush administration might want to hold back any findings until after the 2006 mid-term elections. This is an issue of national security. We could have another category 5 hurricane hit the Gulf Coast next week.

Four years ago, the twin towers of the World Trade Center came tumbling down. Since then our government has created the Department of Homeland Security to keep us safer from terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina was on the radar screen. You and I could watch it coming on the weather channels or the internet, but FEMA could not get water to thousands of people stranded at the Super Dome for three days after the hurricane left. It should be starting to be clear that the Bush administration has been playing a number of games since it took over. Blame-avoidance is one of their games. Not pointing the finger at anyone working for George Bush is another – not matter who incompetent or under-qualified the official.

Maybe on September 16, instead of a national day of prayer for the hurricane victims, maybe we could have a national day of silence. Shut off the televisions, radios, MP3s, etc. and just be quiet for once. This will not happen. It would be bad for business and it would not be good for consumers. It might be good for our individual souls, but that does not put squat on the Nation’s bottom line. Today is September 11 and we as a nation have some hard work to do and hard thinking too.



The White House announced today the President Bush has added one new job to the economy. The new position will be the top position at FEMA. The position was formerly held by Mike Brown. In a written statement, President Bush said he regretted Brown decision to leave -- especially since they hadn't minted the official White House medal of silence given to all exiting, high-ranking Bush administration officials.

President Bush said a search will begin immediately to find a qualified candidate. He stressed the importance of connecting with the right individual to fill the job. The ability to golf and tell bodily function jokes will be prime job qualifications. Brown was shocked when told the news. He said this is the worst thing that has happened since the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

When asked to discuss his personal feelings on the events that led to Brown's pursuit of other career opportunities, President Bush's only comments were, "Did you see the look on Brownie's face, when he got the news? He looked like the south end of a north bound Arabain horse. Hey! It's the weekend, we've got fund raising to do -- that's campaign funds, not disaster relief funds. That's hard work!"

Vice Presdient Cheney was unavailable for comments. He has been assigned to lead task force trying to determine if Katrina was involved in taking the WMD's from Iraq and thus casuing the Administration a certain amount of embarrassment.

Enrollment Limited for Fictitious Fishing Class

The Hudson School District stunned teachers, parents and students today as they officially announced an enrollment limit in the Hudson High School fictitious fishing class.

Those who were considering enrolling in the non-existent class might have found it listed in the class offering handbook as PE 00-0000H20, if it had ever been offered as an official Phy. Ed. class, but of course it never has been or will be. Rumors continue to persist that the fictious fishing class had been responsible for wasting untold amounts of taxpayer funds. Despite continued public statements by the district that the class doesn’t and never has existed, the rumors have persisted, fanned by the perpetually ignorant comments of bloggers on a local anti-education website, http://www.ontheborderline.net. Bloggers and School Board detractors have successfully convinced numerous Hudson residents that the class has had staggering enrollment. In an attempt to set the record straight the district announced today that the enrollment in the fishing class that never existed will be limited to zero. That’s right, none, nobody, no-one, no way.

Ontheborderline bloggers who continue to insist that the class does exist and who wish to enroll as part of the district's Foolish Adult Education Program can do so by filling out the appropriate forms at http://www.Iamasucker.edu. A $75 enrollment fee and $ 25 class supply fee will be immediately charged to your credit card for hook, line, sinker and worms. Don’t let that big one get away.


Let's Blame It All On President Bush...or the French!

George W. Bush is the hurricane president, as long as the hurricane hits in Florida where his brother Jeb is the governor. Isn't it interesting how the Bush Administration reacts to certain situations? You would think President Bush would understand the seriousness of a category five hurricane. He make three visits to Florida last year to view the damage done by hurricanes Charley, Francis and Ivan. Was that only because of the excellent photo opts provided for his dead-heat election campaign? You would hope not...

For the Terri Schavio political circus, Bush would fly back from Texas to Washington to do his political thing. Now comes the worst natural disaster to hit the US and Bush tells us he's cutting short his vacation to deal with the problem...of course, the hurricane hit a couple of days before. No need to hurry. The plans are in place. Meanwhile, Condi Rice is on vacation playing a little tennis. VP Cheney is vacationing and fund raising. Who runs the country during the month of August? Karl Rove? When is the last time you had a five-week vacation? For me, it was the summer before I started my first paper route. I was eight years old then. Now I am 50.

Maybe President Bush should call Rome and arrange fiddle lessons with Nero...

Learning the fiddle would add to the President's musical arsenal. He is already an accomplished choir director and he knows how to do a good song and dance routine. If you have been watching the news coverage on Hurricane Katrina this week, you have witnessed the fine art of government spin unraveling into a rat's nest of falsehoods, misleading statements and posterior covering seldom displayed in such a blatant, obvious manner.

Over the past few years, we have seen our President and his Mayberry Machiavellians trick us into to war. Then they tried to do war on the cheap -- a Wal-Mart war with lots of outsourcing and cheap labor. It became obvious quite early in Iraq that the planning was drawn up by the neo-con chickenhawks who ignored the experienced military planners to save a few bucks.

You should notice an emerging pattern with Bush and his administration. They are cutting taxes to fill up the pockets of the "haves" and taking away the programs benefiting the "have nots." When you add up President Bush's accomplishments in his four and a half years in office, it is heading in to negative numbers.

The Party Boy

Sure, he can play the party-loyalist game. He can do what it takes to keep the religious right from bolting from his camp. He can land on an aircraft carrier and tell us the mission is accomplished. This past week showed us our President without his flight suit, mountain biking uniform or serious blue suit. Emperor Bush went totally naked on us this week. The truth came out this week. America had the bandage of bullshit yanked off its nose and finally got a glimpse of the scarecrow we have for a leader.

In flying red, white and blue colors, we witnessed the failure of politicians at the local, county or parish, state, regional and national level. We learned that the fours years since 9/11 has not improved our ability to communicate between governmental agencies and entities. The batteries were dead in our national security flashlight. We have seen a failure of leadership and management at all levels. Remember all those national security alerts we where treated to prior to the election last November? Did you notice they disappeared after the election? Why do you suppose that is? How secure do you feel now?

As we have seen in the past, we saw the heroic efforts of the individuals on the ground, in the water and in the air going all out to get 'er done -- despite the lack of leadership at the top.

A quote from The 9/11 Commission Report sheds light on the government response to Hurricane Katrina: "Imagination is not a gift associated with bureaucracies." These government agencies might know what needs to be done, but they are not good at doing it. In corporate America you see this all the time. It looks good on the Power Point slides. All the bases are covered and the contingencies outlined. The Power Points presentations are backed up by extensive Microsoft Project spreadsheets. The wheels are all greased, the tires are perfectly balanced and everything is in perfect, efficient and effective harmony. However, when the spinning tires gets dropped on the road, we find out that a whole set of variables where not tacken into consideration -- there's ice, gravel, bumps, tire defects, etc. Then the fingers of blame start pointing in every direction and usually concentrate on those are the lower pay levels and/or without the power.

We received the first installment of the reality show that showed us there are some very poor people living in this country. Following behind Arkansas and New Mexico, with 18.8% and 18% of their people living in poverty, Louisiana and and Mississippi are tied for third place with 17.2%. Contrast that with 9.2% in Wisconsin and 6.9% in Minnesota. Close to the top of the list is the District of Columbia, i.e., our nation's capitol, with 16.9%.You might have missed the news on the release of the federal government's report on poverty Tuesday, let it be known that it is climbing in both real numbers and percentages. Safice it to say, the statistics on poverty are not moving in an upwardly mobile direction.

Maybe there's some bleeding-heart Republican's who think the President should get a break here. Afterall, this is the largest natural disaster in the history of our country. The area of concern is the size of Great Britain. Think about it...

In The Heart Of The Action
Last Tuesday, a day after the hurricane ripped up Louisiana and Mississippi, President Bush was in California and Arizona drumming up support for a Medicare prescription drug benefit and visiting a military base -- to get away from the anti-war reality camped outside his ranch. Tuesday night it was announced that he would be cutting his vacation short to return to Washington on Wednesday afternoon. By the time Bush met with his cabinet late Wednesday afternoon, it had been nearly 48 hours since the hurricane moved through New Orleans. This Sunday morning (9/4/05), a parish council chairman was in tears on Sunday morning talk shows begging for help that has not yet arrive.

"Help is on the way", our President assured the victims of the hurricane. Ditto echoed FEMA Chief, Mike Brown. Double-ditto said Home Land Security Director, Michael Chertoff. On Thursday evening, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is begging for something to show up. "Where's the beef?," I believe he implored and told the Feds to "get off their asses." Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco wore the look of daze-n-confused at every press conference. The greatest nation in the world can't even drop pallets of water nead the Super Dome!

Then we start hearing about the need for Rudy Gulliani to step in and be some white knight. Maybe what Bush, Brown and Chertoff really need is to call in Baghdad Bob. He seems to fit better into the credibility mold that is being established. Maybe a little background music by the Spin Doctors would help cheer things up.

The White House spin game is a little less than honest. The Washington Post reported on Sunday morning that a "senior Bush official" had complained that, as of Saturday, the governor of Louisiana -- who just happens to be a Democrat -- had not yet declared a state of emergency. Kathleen Blanco, meet Cindy Sheehan. Or Joseph Wilson. Or Paul O'Neill. Or John McCain. Only this time, the media is on to the game, at least belatedly. As Scott Rosenberg notes, Gov. Blanco did, in fact, declare a state of emergency. She did it on Aug. 26, when George W. Bush was on vacation. The Post has posted a correction.

The 9/11 attacks were purgatory compared to the hell in Louisiana and Mississippi. Mayor Gulliani could go home and sleep with his mistress, after an exhausting day of dealing with the 9/11 aftermath. The NYPD and NYFD could go home. I don't know if Mayor Nagin still has a home! Likewise with the members of the NOPD. This evening approximately 80 percent of the city of New Orleans was standing in water. The New Orleans mayor and the police have their families to save. Two police have committed suicide. You cannot expect these people to people the city and save their families simultaneously. That is why external rescue and protection needed to be in place before Katrina arrived.

The president of Jefferson Parish, Aaron Broussard, broken down on Sunday morning's Meet The Press. He's plea paints a pretty bleak picture between what these people are being told is coming and what has showed up:

"The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home, and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, "And yeah, Momma, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you Friday -- and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night. Nobody's coming to get her, nobody's coming to get her. The secretary's promised, everybody's promised. They had press conferences. For God's sake, shut up and send us somebody."

The Devil Went Down To Louisiana and Mississippi

Of course, Saturday afternoon the President was in Houston and joking with the crowd about the excessive partying he use to do there. Do I hear fiddle music?

I believe the World Trade Center tragedy covered about a square mile of real estate. That's a far cry from the size of Great Britain. Despite the loss of life and the destruction of property, 9/11 must have been a disaster management picnic compared to this hurricane.

Think about this. On the Thursday night edition of ABC's Nightline, FEMA Chief Mike Brown told Ted Koppel that FEMA didn't know there was 5,000 people at the New Orleans Convention Center without food, water, etc. until Thursday morning. FEMA thought the problem was at the Super Dome. Koppel pressed Brown for a response, asking "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting it for more than just today?"

Brown responded, "We've been so focused on doing rescue and life-saving missions and evacuating people from the Super Dome that when we first learned about it (the convention center), my first gut instiction, instinct, was get somebody in there, get me the truth on the ground, let me know, because if it's true, we've got to help those people." Has FEMA not heard of the concept of "multi-tasking?" From the looks of it, FEMA was operating under the guidance of a "to do list." 1. Rescue people, 2. Drop water and food, 3. Restore order, etc. In a situation like this, many things have to happen at the same time.

Thank God I'm A Good Ol' Boy!

If you didn't get a chance to read Mike Brown's resume, here a summary of his qualifications: A native of Guynon, OK., he was born in 1955. He onced served on the Edmund, OK City Council and oversaw that city's emergency service division from 1975-78. He lost political campaigns for mayor and a US House seat. From 1991-2001, he served as attorney for the business interest of a wealthy Colorado family. He was also commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. In 2001, his old friend Joseph Allbaugh -- who managed Bush's 2000 presidential campaign -- took over FEMA and hired Brown as his general counsel. When Allbaugh left FEMA in 2003, Brown succeeded him. In other words, Brown got his job through the good ol' boy network. No qualifications, just good connections.

The fact that CNN, Fox News and other major television news outlets can get on the scene in a matter of hours and charity/relief organizations like the Salvation Army and various church groups can be up and running overnight should give us a hint at the importance of agility and experience in dealing with these types of situations. Of course, we've never had a situation of this magnitude...

Reading and watching the big and small stories of this unfolding tragedy, you can't help but have your thought processes altered. It's easy to sit in my comfortable chair in the Wisconsin countryside and be the armchair quarterback blogging away like I have some concept or idea what these people are going through and what they will be going through. Hell, I don't even know what it's like to be a quarterback. I played defense. I don't think I'm alone on this score.

One of the small stories that really gripped my attention was the story of 59-year old Glendalyn Fletcher. Glendalyn was swept away on Monday from her house and a family that included her 83-year old mother Camille. As her house collapsed, she was sucked through a hole in the wall and began to swim for her life. She was stripped naked by the ragging waters and ended up at a neighbor's house. There she and the neighbors cowered until they were picked up Tuesday by a boat and deposited on a water-locked section of Interstate 10. I can't find the picture that was snapped of the mother-n-daughter reunion, but it's worth more than a thousand words of joy. The only direct quote in the story from Glendalyn about the experience was short and very deep: "It was horrible, but there were millions of stars."

A Million Points OF Light

What a contrast! The same Mother Nature who floats the butterfly on a gentle summer breeze is the same Mother Nature that can give you a lesson in what a ranging bitch monster she can turn into in a matter of hours. In all the hurricane horror, the stars shined bright on a New Orleans Tuesday night. The lights are out down South and it's up to all of us to get them back on. It can happen here and it's a lesson we all need to be learning. To those of us who are high, dry and healthy, we need to understand this isn't a short-term, "McProblem." It's a very long-term one. Not only do we have to help our fellow citizens to regain their lives, we have to regain our governments at the local, county, state and national levels.

You can blame President Bush, FEMA, Homeland Security, the Governor's of Louisiana and Mississippi and the Mayor of New Orleans, if that makes you feel better. But before you start playing the blame game, remember that the government is you, me and everybody. If you feel the government has let us down here, ask yourself what role you've played in making your government a useful tool for moving society forward. Think about your own emergency planning. What if you got a flat tire on a dark road at night? Do you have a flashlight in you car? Could you change your flat tire? This is basic household survival.

What have you done to make sure your government is working the way you think it should? When is the last time you attended a school, town, county, etc. board meeting? All roads will lead you to the building where these meetings are held...even the ones below. You are invited. That is what democracy is all about. Or are just going to get comfortable in your easychair and pass the buck and blame it all on the President?

Dig deep into your pocketbooks to help these people out and get involve into local politics. As Tip O'Neil said, "All politics is local." The participants On The Border Line understand this and their over on their website trying to make sure nobody they voted for gets the blame for this.

Was it deja vu all over again?



John Sherffius was an editorial cartoonist for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1998 until December 2003. He is the recipient of the 2004 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and, in 2002, the Scripps Howard Journalism Award for work covering the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Click here for the current Homeland Security level.


OTBL "Less Government, Disaster Solution"

OTBL Quote: “After watching the scenes from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and what is happening at our borders it is evident that government has even failed at this primary responsibility. Perhaps it is due to the fact that government has wasted so much of its resources in pursuing goals which in the end would always fail. The obvious solution is less and less government.”

Hurricane victim's demand less government!!!!!!!

Can't get much less government than Anarchy!!!!!!!!!