What's All This Then?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Many years ago, I created a radio feature called "Quotable Quotes." In those days there were a lot of short (one to five minute) syndicated radio programs on the air and a few of them were my creations that I’d record in Chicago and mail to stations across the country on vinyl records. Some of the programs that I created and syndicated are mentioned in my bio which you can find at my other blog site..

The idea for "quotable quotes" was to build a story around something memorable that had been said by someone in the past - usually someone of note - and finish with the quote itself. A little bit like Paul Harvey’s "Rest of the Story." It was a good idea and the pilot programs were well received, but for a number of reasons not worth mentioning here, it never got off the ground.

I was reminded of the program idea while reading a collection of some of the nutty things that people have said over the past few days about the effects of Katrina.. I don’t think you could classify any of them as "quotable quotes" but I know that if the series had ever gotten off the ground and was still around today, I could have created some nifty stories to tie in to some of the ridiculous utterances of Brown, Bush, Cheney and others.

Here are my favorites to date:

FEMA Director Michael Brown:

"I must say, this storm is much bigger than anyone expected."

"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."

"We just learned of the convention center -- we being the federal government -- today." (While the rest of the world knew it yesterday!!)

President Bush

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

"I'm satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with the results." (Later on the same day as telling Brownie what a great job he was doing).

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

Barbara Bush

What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them."

Unidentified Angry Citizen

Speaking to the Vice President - " Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney. Go fuck yourself."

Vice President Cheney

(Giggling answer to a reporter’s question about hearing that kind of citizen suggestion)- "First time I've heard it. Must be a friend of John, er, uh, never mind."

Louisiana Republican Congressman Richard Baker

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." (He denies ever saying it but the reporter who heard it and wrote the Wall Street Journal story is sticking to his guns).

Republican operative Jack Burkman

I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."

I don’t know about you, but to my mind, the only quote that could be considered memorable from among this collection is that of the unknown citizen. It sums up how millions of people feel about the performance of our government in response to the onslaught of hurricane Katrina - me among them.

Go fuck yourself (fill in the preferred government official’s name)


September 14, 2005 9.35 a.m.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."
George W Bush September 13, 2005.

I still prefer the "go fuck yourself" quote as the most or only memorable line from the above collection, but of course we must now take note of yesterday’s watershed moment. The man who is unable to think of any mistake he has made in the course of his presidency, finally "accepted responsibility" for something. He acknowledged where the buck stopped. Not unequivocally of course. That would be expecting too much. It was a modified acceptance - only "to the extent that the Federal government didn’t fully do its job right." But it was something. Even if it had more to do with Karl Rove and the mid term elections than with a moment of honesty, humility and sincerity in the life of our President.

Having said all that, let me add that I have never felt comfortable or satisfied with this business of Presidents "accepting responsibility" for the pain of some tragic national event - as though a few words from the White House in any way eases the pain. I particularly remember feeling more anger and disgust than anything else when Ronald Reagan didn’t just "accept responsibility" but "FULL responsibility" for the 1983 suicide bombing that killed 243 marines in Lebanon. After which he did nothing about it other than to pull the rest of our troops out of that country. And then he carried on as if nothing had happened

Maybe Bush will do better. Maybe his acceptance of responsibility will extend into responsible action. Like removing political insiders from jobs they never should have had and appointing professionals in their place. And then admitting that in appointing people to head up agencies charged with protecting the American people because they were FOGS or FOFOGS instead of appointing professionals in the first place, he was at least partially responsible for some of the deaths that occurred in New Orleans.

But I’m not holding my breath.