By Matt Stone
Illustration by Patricia Tompkins
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Time out. Did President Bush actually apologize to the nation last week for the government's ham-fisted response to Hurricane Katrina? Am I living in some alternate reality - namely, Russia - where the media reports on apologies to the American people that were never made and unintended bouts of contrition? Have I lost my marbles?
No - no, I haven't. And while Bush didn't go quite as far as to say, "I'm sorry," the Web sites of major U.S. newspapers have confirmed my suspicions: This is a presidency in shambles. This is a presidency so broken and bruised it has finally lowered itself into the bowels of shameful penitence.
As if Americans expected accountability from its public officials.
Mr. President, I'm disappointed. You really ought not be so apologetic. It makes you look weak. You are strong, resolute, the model of leadership. You are the president. You don't fire your subordinates; you hold on to them and blame a couple "bad apples" for wholesale systemic collapse.
You held on to Rummy, didn't you? Why should you jettison that equestrian management fellow of yours? The American people won't notice if you keep smirking and claiming that yet another mission is accomplished.
Perhaps you could schedule a photo op in the New Orleans Superdome by parachuting through the hole in the ceiling onto its football field, with the words "No African-American Left Behind" emblazoned in the end zone.
With cameras rolling, the American people will eat it up: There's our commander in chief, shining his beacon of hope and good Christian values toward debilitating government deficits, unprecedented global warming, the quicksand of Iraq and corpses rotting in the streets of New Orleans.
In the meantime, you can sic that Rove fellow of yours on those pesky moms who interrupted your summer siesta by protesting the war outside your humble ranch in Crawford - moms whose sons and daughters are now dead.
If one of those mothers has a relative that works for the CIA in covert ops, maybe Rove could even tell some partisan hack by the last name of Novak about that as well. I mean, we swift-boated John Kerry. Why not Cindy Sheehan?
Tell the American people that tax cuts are necessary while fighting two wars. Tell the American people that government is the problem, not the solution. Tell the American people that if the Federal Emergency Management Agency had simply been cut before Katrina, the spirit of cooperation and neighborliness would have prevailed.
Go to New Orleans. Put your arm around some fire chief who's lost half his crew - not because of collapsing buildings or faulty dikes, but because they're stationed in Iraq - and summarily promise to save the day. Promise action. Promise hope. Promise a fight against evil. Rally the American people: Bomb a country.
Privately hope that the members of Congress manage an impromptu "God Bless America" on the steps of the Capitol.
Catastrophe calls for leadership. Tragedy necessitates security. Calamity requires action. You are the man for the job. You ran multiple oil companies into bankruptcy just to get here. You fought boredom by running for governor of Texas. You were a cheerleader at Philips Andover Academy.
Don't buy into that crap coming from the liberal media establishment - that stuff about how Sept. 11 bolstered your presidency and how Katrina will now dismantle it. You have three years ahead of you: More time for revolutionary legislation with Orwellian appellations like the Healthy Forests Initiative, the Help America Vote Act, and the Patriot Act. If the criticism really gets to you, find surreptitious ways to make those doing the criticizing appear "unpatriotic."
Maybe you can re-energize your political base by declaring DEF CON 1 when a husband requests his wife's feeding tube removed after a 14-year coma.
To really get the ball rolling, declare France a member of the axis of evil and then spend an afternoon biking with Lance Armstrong to drive the point home. Be sure to emphasize in unscripted comments that a Frenchie has not won the Tour de France in 20 years.
Most importantly, draw attention away from the streets of Baghdad and the streets of New Orleans. Find a decent red herring and milk it for all its worth. Eventually, just wring it to death like the 1,900 dead soldiers in Iraq and the 700 dead of a hurricane named Katrina and the ineffably disastrous government response it provoked - a response that was clearly incompetent because of a couple of "bad apples."
Just whatever you do, Mr. President, don't apologize. Someone might be thinking, "It's about damn time."
Matt Stone is an international studies and economics junior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.