The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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Seeing is believing

I know some of you won’t want to read this. Many of you simply want to forget about Katrina – with all the doom and gloom and the dead bodies.

Trust me when I say the White House would like nothing better.

What else explains why the federal government is trying to prohibit photographers (at gunpoint) from taking photos of the corpses that still line streets and float in the toxic stew that is slow to recede?

Respect for the dead, or so they would like you to believe. If that were the case, however, they would not have waited days – two weeks in many cases – to begin to retrieve bodies that were in plain view and easily accessible.

Nor would FEMA have given the contract for body recovery, identification and disposal to a company owned by Bush family friends, that had been fined $100 million for such macabre practices as digging up bodies in order to reuse graves and dumping bodies in a wood, to be picked over by wild hogs.

No, it’s not pretty, but you need to hear it. So much for respect for the dead.In her Tuesday column, Sarah Gibbons explained why it is important that we see photos of the dead. Seeing really is believing. For some, Hurricane Katrina remains a vague, even annoying abstraction.

Hurricane hits the Gulf Coast…he said, she said…the federal government didn’t do this…the local government didn’t do that…don’t play the blame game, there will be time for finger-pointing later…we didn’t know the levees would break…New Orleans dodged a bullet…blah, blah, blah…If some of you are confused, don’t worry. The federal government wants you to be confused. And they want you to forget – as soon as possible.

Pop quiz: How many of you know that Bush has actually taken responsibility for the federal government’s failure to act?

Well, sorta, kinda.

“To the extent that the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility” Bush said, fidgeting and hemming and hawing like a little boy who was made to apologize for something he did.

While meaningless (there’s a loophole big enough for a hurricane to pass through it), the above confession is the closest Bush has ever come to admitting past mistakes. And it’s not like he hasn’t made them. Mistakes are plenty. Admissions of responsibility, one (sorta, kinda).

Anyone who knows Bush (and I’m not just talking about your average Bush supporter) knows how significant Bush’s pseudo-admission of responsibility is and how that defines how big the blunder was.

Like all things, Bush’s kinda-sorta mea culpa doesn’t exist in a vacuum. His already declining approval rating is now hemorrhaging, 42 percent in one poll and 38 percent in another. The most recent polls reflect a 10 percent net loss in support among Republicans. Depending on which poll you read, anywhere from 67 percent to 80 percent of Americans think that Bush botched the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Don’t worry, George. Laura still thinks you’re doing a great job, even though she doesn’t even know the name of the Hurricane, calling it Karina during a recent photo-op, not once, not twice, but a dozen times.

Katrina, Karina, names aren’t important. If Bush (or Karl Rove) knows anything, it’s that facts don’t matter, perception does.

There’s a reason Bush has been to the Gulf Coast three times and plans more visits. Never mind that it took him a week to finally get there. There’s a reason he’s using volunteer firefighters, à la 9/11, as extras on his PR tour. And there’s a reason he’s speaking tonight during primetime.

This administration was caught with its pants down. Bush was playing the guitar in California, Cheney was shopping for a vacation home in Wyoming, Rice was watching “Spamalot” and buying Prada shoes in New York and Andrew Card was frolicking in Kennebunkport.

The only people in Washington watching Katrina wreak havoc and devastation were low-level staffers who probably flipped a coin to determine who had to call the president to tell him he should come back to Washington.

The official Katrina death toll as of yesterday was 653, well below the 10,000 first projected. That number is certain to rise as the water recedes and individual homes and other buildings are inspected. An exact number may never be known, especially once cleanup (bulldozing) begins.In the meantime, 160 people were killed and 570 injured yesterday in Baghdad in 12 separate but coordinated explosions. Iraq hasn’t gone away. It’s just been pushed off the front pages. If Bush can only keep Iraq off the front page and push Katrina off, too, things will be great – at least in Bush’s through-the-looking-glass world.

I can just imagine a petulant Bush yelling tonight, “Where’s my script? Someone get me my script.”

Then a lackey hands him a dusty script bearing the title “How to Sell the Iraq War to Americans,” with the words “Iraq War” crossed out and “Hurricane Katrina” scribbled in with red ink.

George Henson is a lecturer of Spanish. He may be contacted at [email protected].

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