Episode 41: Mr. President, In the Name of God, Go

I have one last public letter from Winston to share. And this time it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy!

The Last Chance Democracy Café
Episode 41: Mr. President, In the Name of God, Go

by Steven C. Day

To the Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States (under protest)

Dear President Bush:

I want to share a little history with you.

On May 7, 1940, Leo Amery, a longtime personal friend and political ally to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, rocked the British Parliament by delivering a devastating attack against Chamberlain’s conduct of the war. In concluding the speech, which became one of the major factors leading to Chamberlain’s resignation and Winston Churchill’s rise to PM, Amery famously repeated Oliver Cromwell’s words chastising the Long Parliament:

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

It’s sort of funny, don’t you think, Mr. President, how words first spoken over 350 years ago can continue to have relevance today?

* * *

Where were you, Mr. President?

Americans were dying by the thousands, with thousands of others hanging on by a thread. These were people who desperately needed help, not in five, six or seven days, but right then. You had to know this was going on; everyone in the world with a television set knew. And all across the country, probably all across the world, people were screaming at their televisions, “Help them! For the love of God, someone help those people!”

But as hour after hour became day after day nothing happened. And so we watched them suffer and we watched them die — old women and new born baby boys, toddlers and retirees, native-born Americans and immigrants chasing a better life, black people and to a much lesser degree white people. All joined together in the sweep of history; all betrayed.

We watched them perched on top of roofs, hanging out of attics and swimming in the unimaginable filth of the flood water. This was death and human misery 21st century style, live and on the air.

“Where are the helicopters? Where are the boats?” we cried out as one. And still, nothing.

Where were you, Mr. President?

Where the fuck were you?

Where, for that matter, was the whole federal government during those critical first 48-to-72 hours?

The American people, the folks you supposedly work for, did our part: We always do in times of disaster. We gave and we gave and we gave. We’re still giving. But one thing we couldn’t do, as much as many of us wanted to, was to take charge of the situation and make sure that the job on the ground got done. That was your job.

And you went AWOL: Clearing brush on your ranch, playing the guitar with a country music singer in California and cutting cake with John McCain in Arizona. And it wasn’t just you personally: It was the entire upper level of your administration: There was Dick Cheney, well positioned at his vacation home, ready, I suppose, to respond at a moment’s notice in case the hurricane struck Wyoming, and Condoleezza Rice personally inspecting the nation’s shoe supply, making certain rescue efforts wouldn’t be impeded by a shortage of $700 pumps.

In the name of simple decency, Mr. President, if you didn’t want to lead this nation through desperate times, then why did you work so hard to get and keep the job?

This is, after all, a big part of what we have a president for: Someone to lead us when things get rough — someone ready, able and willing to move heaven, earth and even hell itself, if need be, to keep us safe.

But the people of the Gulf Coast didn’t get that sort of president when they needed one. They got one who thought tax cuts for the wealthy were more important than maintaining the levee system protecting New Orleans; one who thought that leaving wetlands unmolested to protect the city from storm surges was less important than maximizing the profits of developers; and one who, judging by his actions, thought that winging it was a perfectly appropriate way to “prepare” for an impending natural catastrophe.

And, please, Mr. President, stop insulting our intelligence with all this crap about the federal government’s failures being somehow caused by delays in obtaining approval from the locals. Even aside from the dubious nature of your factual assertions, are you seriously trying to tell us that while untold numbers of Americans were dying right in front of your eyes you were just standing there whistling Dixie because you didn’t have the right piece of paper in your hand?

Shit, you sure picked one hell of a time to become fastidious about legal niceties. You are, after all, the same president who seemed to have no problem at all with pitching the rule of law right out the window when it came time to authorize things like “stress and duress” (torture-lite) interrogation practices, the holding of American citizens without charge or access to a lawyer, repeatedly denying public access to governmental records clearly subject to disclosure under controlling law and habitually refusing to enforce the clear intent of environmental and worker protection legislation when doing so advanced the interests of your wealthy campaign contributors.

And now you want us to believe that you just couldn’t bring yourself to take an “act now and ask for forgiveness later” approach to saving the City of New Orleans?


Besides, if you really were having such an awful time in obtaining local cooperation, why didn’t you raise hell about it? Why not go on television to let the people of Louisiana know the way their leaders are betraying them while there is still time to do something about it? You certainly are showing no hesitation about attacking the political leadership of Louisiana today, now that it’s in your political interests to do so: So why the strange silence back when it could have made all the difference?

Oh, and by the way, the early federal response to Katrina didn’t just suck in Louisiana; it was pathetic in Mississippi and Alabama as well. Yet, for some strange reason, it’s only Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco who’s being attacked as an excuse for federal inaction, not Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour or Alabama Governor Bob Riley.

Surely this couldn’t be because Blanco is a Democrat, while Barbour and Riley are Republicans.

But regardless, given that you’re not blaming the local governments in Mississippi and Alabama, Mr. President, may we safely assume that you’re willing to accept personal responsibility for the slow response in at least those states?

Just asking.

Here, I think, is the bottom line, Mr. President: Responding to Katrina just didn’t interest you much. So you punted it to underlings. Unfortunately for the Gulf Coast, those underlings didn’t begin to have the qualifications needed for the job. As the website Think Progress reported, former Director Mike Brown wasn’t the only politico with no experience in emergency management who you pawned off on FEMA: Brown’s two principal aides, Chief of Staff, Patrick Rhode (whose major qualification for the job was acting as an advance man for the Bush campaign), and Deputy Chief of Staff, Scott Morris (who worked for the company that produced Bush’s campaign commercials), were, if anything, even less qualified.

I mean, Jesus, what kind of a moron regards an agency that constitutes the nation’s primary line of defense against natural disasters as just one more opportunity for political payoffs?

So is it really such a big surprise that these bozos screwed up FEMA?

And that FEMA then screwed up the response to Katrina?

But even then, Mr. President, even with all hell breaking loose, you still didn’t trouble your beautiful mind to become personally involved in the crisis until political circumstances demanded it.

Paul Krugman got it about right in his September 2, 1995 column, A Can’t-Do Government. Here’s part of what he said, “At a fundamental level, I’d argue, our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government.”

Bingo. At the end of the day, President Bush, you run an administration that has very little interest in the actual art of governance, except, of course, where your pet projects are concerned.

If the subject is a punitive one — waging war, imposing the death penalty, locking people up and throwing away the key — or involves padding the pockets of your wealthy sponsors — tax cuts, corporate giveaways, unlimited oil exploration — or concerns furthering the agenda of the Religious Right — banning all abortions, restricting birth control and sex education, demonizing gays and lesbians — you guys are always Johnny-on-the-spot.

But when it comes to the part of governing that involves protecting the health and welfare of average and poor Americans, you just yawn.

You didn’t betray New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast out of malice.

You just didn’t give a shit.

* * *

You’re a fair minded man, Mr. Bush — well, we’ll pretend anyway. So let me ask you: How much more do you think we should have to suffer? How many more unnecessary deaths? How many blunders? How many lies?

Wasn’t the morass in Iraq enough?

And all of the blunders leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks?

And letting Osama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora?

And burying America in debt in order to fund your huge tax giveaways to your rich campaign contributors?

And junking scientific research through unethical political meddling and censorship?

And turning public wilderness lands into a government operated Wal-Mart Super Store for developers?

And using the national grief over Sept. 11 for political gain?

And, now, at last, we have the Coup de Grâce, the betrayal of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

In all fairness, Sir, isn’t that enough? May we not now fairly state what follows loud and clear to you and your whole crowd?

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

Be gone, Mr. President. In the name of God, go.


Winston, on behalf of,
The Last Chance Democracy Café

* * *

When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at [email protected].

© Copyright 2004, Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001

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3 Responses to “Episode 41: Mr. President, In the Name of God, Go”

  1. RogerARTcom Says:

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  2. iowametal76 Says:

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, everything would’ve played out much differently had this been a natural disaster that struck, say, Connecticut or the coast of Maine. Do you really think all those white people would’ve been hung out to dry?

    Kanye was right.

  3. Tigris Lily Says:

    Is this a petition? Where do I sign?

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