Thursday, September 01, 2005

A better speech

People of all political backgrounds have been giving President Bush low marks for both his response to Hurricane Katrina and the overly cheery speech he gave in response. This is the speech he should have given.

"My fellow Americans,

"Before we get to the larger issues of response, I would like to speak directly to those who may still be trapped in New Orleans and Mississippi awaiting rescue: Hang on. We're coming.

"There are those in the media who are crying out against so-called "looting," but I say do what you have to to make it through this trying time. We, as a nation, will find a way to make up the losses for store owners who have already been struck so devastatingly by this terrible disaster, but now is not the time to quibble about the ownership of things like food and water. Now is the time to save lives.

"As for the government's response to this disaster, I can only say that I am sorry. We have failed you. I have failed you.

"First and foremost, we should not have ignored the report of the Federal Emergency Management when it said in 2001 that flood damage to New Orleans was one of the three most likely, most catastrophic disasters which could befall the United States. I also should have, like President Clinton, nominated a trained disaster response professional to head FEMA, not a political patron and estate planning lawyer with no experience. And, instead of cutting funding for work on the city's levees, I should have, at the very least, kept the funding levels the same.

"The problem was, I had promised tax cuts to the nation and my party and I delivered them. It is obvious now that we can no longer afford them. Therefore I call today on the Congress to reconvene before their scheduled time and suspend the tax cuts for households that make over 150,000 dollars which were put in place on my watch. I know that there are many, like myself, who truly believe that taxes on American citizens were too high when I took office, but now is the time for sacrifice. In the future, I know that we can revisit the issue of the tax system, but there are more important things than money. Our fellow citizens need us.

"Money is not the only sacrifice we should be making. Every American should be trying to find ways to conserve energy, oil and gas. Managers of companies should take charge of setting up carpools for employees and, when possible, allow commuters to work from home for the next few weeks. Unnecessary travel should be kept to a minimum. Resources are scarce right now and are needed desperately in Katrina's wake.

"When I think back on the past week, it's so obvious to me where we made mistakes. We should have had plans in place for these sorts of situations. It's been four years since 9/11—three since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security—and I'm as surprised as anyone to find that we don't have evacuation plans in place for our major cities. This could just as easily have been a dirty bomb, for which we would have had no warning, but we had days and days of lead time here.

"Remember those cold war movies where guys in a bomber would get a coded message and that one word code would tell them where to go and what to do? We should have had that in place.

"As soon as we realized this was going to be a big hurricane, I should have been able to call Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security or Steve Hadley, my National Security guy, and said run "Code Mardi Gras" or something. That should have set in motion an evacuation plan in which the nation took over all rail cars—shipping and passenger—in the southeast and they should have been running in and out of the city since at least last Friday, carrying out the poor, infirm and elderly who could not make it out on their own. We should have had stores or food and water, pre-packaged for airdrop, sitting in warehouses at Air Force bases all around the nation. We should have had troops on the ground the day after the hurricane passed and those troops should have known exactly what they were supposed to do because we should have been wargaming scenarios like this for the past four years. Operation Mardi Gras. Operation Mile High. Operation Windy City. Operation Movie Star. We should have been working on evacuation and mass casualty plans for every city in the nation and we should have started working on those plans on September 12, 2001.

"On a personal note, I should have responded faster. Military commanders shouldn't have had to wait for me to tell them to "step up" operations. I shouldn't have been attending social security events or birthday parties or any other political event. I should have been in New Orleans or, at the very least, here in Washington, overseeing the government's response to this event. We have some great people who work in the necessary fields here in D.C., but they needed leadership and I was not here to provide it. You see, there are some things the members of my administration can't authorize without my OK, so there were things that had to wait for me. I cannot imagine how many American lives might have been saved by a swifter response on the part of myself and my administration. That number, unknowable as it is, will haunt me the rest of my days.

"In conclusion, it is time for me to take responsibility for these failures. Therefore, I announce today my resignation as President of the United States . I have not set an official date yet, as I may still be of some assistance here in the coming days, but it should be soon. I ask that my departure might not become another political salvo in the holy war that American politics has become, but, rather, that all Americans take this opportunity to set aside the differences between us and try to find the common ground we will need to help our fellow citizens find their footing.

"As I go, I thank Americans for the support and love they've shown my family and I for the past four-plus years. May God bless America and every one of you."

Update: So my speech is wishful thinking. I accept that. Stirling Newberry's version of the speech -- which I just read but was posted hours before mine -- kicks my speech's ass, but lacks the all-important resignation at the end.


Anonymous Tim said...


4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are the biggest moron in the history of the world.

I mean, do you actually believe any of the crap you say, or do you just say it for the reaction? Like a 7 year old?

The president needs to be on the ground at the scene of a natural disaster? Really? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, and I've heard lots of dumb things, including from you lately.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Rock on, Anonymouse.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Well written, Terry, and just the speech a real leader would give (and back up with actions). Carter would have done so without hesitation -- he knew where the buck stopped. I think GWH Bush would have as well.

Clinton? Under Clinton FEMA was the best it ever was. Clinton might not have *needed* to give that speech.

Reagan would have delivered the same speech that Shrub gave, but many Americans would have bought it.

I remember one point, about 10 years ago, that I was struck at just how amazingly fortunate our nation has been to have gotten the leaders it needed in times of crisis (e.g., Washington, Madison for the Constitution & Bill of Rights, Chief Justice Marshall, Lincon, FDR, Geo. Marshall, Truman).

Somehow, we don't seem so lucky any more.


7:30 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

There are hundreds of able-bodied Air Force personnel in Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi looking for something to do. Without power they can't attend the schools they were sent there to complete.

They are killing time, not cleaning up because no one has given them permission to act.

We are talking late-teens/early twenties just out of basic training in San Antonio, so they are acclimated to hot weather.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Goddamn. I sent a couple e-mails to Keesler.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Steve Gilliard is reporting that elements from the 16 SOW from Hurlburt have landed in New Orleans and their helicopters [Low Paves & Pave Hawks] are staging out of Jackson.

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