There is a laughably inept article by Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein) in The American Spectator, entitled "Get Off His Back". In it, Stein leads the apologista charge, and scribbles a whole laundry list of ways we should let Little Georgie off the hook for being an incompetent boob. You can read it here, but be warned - you're going to need a strong gag reflex to get all the way through it.
As it trots out nearly every strawman the right-wing press has, I thought it might be kinda fun to look at it, point by point. Here goes:
A few truths, for those who have ears and eyes and care to know the truth:
I'm going to start off at the top, as it shows perfectly how the conservative press (which, despite claims to the contrary, nearly all news media is to one extent or another) starts by immediately going on the offensive. There is no black and white in their world, just absolute truths, which gives it a particular resonance to many people who don't want to be faced with gray areas. You're not allowed to respect any other viewpoint - my way or the highway in today's political arena.
1.) The hurricane that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama was an astonishing tragedy. The suffering and loss of life and peace of mind of the residents of those areas is acutely horrifying.
Let's show our compassionate side! Glad to see you have one Ben, although many of the points later on will give lie to this sentiment. But by saying this, he lays ground for any retreat he may have to do later.
2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.
It's also important to trot out truths that are incontrovertible, no matter how bleeding obvious they may be. By mixing in these kinds of truths, you can obscure other, more specious claims, making it much harder to parse. Of course, he maybe he's trying to be funny. Bad joke, then.
3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.
Not too many, though Ben. Really, not too many. Maybe his debt with the Devil to steal away the presidency is now being called in? But no, I guess we can let this one go too. It's important to these sorts of pieces to bring out the easy claims first, because the later ones are on much shakier ground. By bringing out claims that smash you in the mouth with their obviousness, it makes you think how "fair" the article is.
4.) There is no overwhelming evidence that global warming exists as a man-made phenomenon. There is no clear-cut evidence that global warming even exists. There is no clear evidence that if it does exist it makes hurricanes more powerful or makes them aim at cities with large numbers of poor people. If global warming is a real phenomenon, which it may well be, it started long before George Bush was inaugurated, and would not have been affected at all by the Kyoto treaty, considering that Kyoto does not cover the world's worst polluters -- China, India, and Brazil. In a word, George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane. To speculate otherwise is belief in sorcery.
Ah, now we're getting so something we can disagree on. And the tactics change slightly. This is another important facet about conservative demagoguery - trot out speculations that are either completely, demonstrably false, or maybe ones that have some tenuous hold on facts and declare anyone who doesn't believe in it are fools, idiots and/or charlatans. Attack opponents viciously enough and they will decide the fight isn't worth it. There is some pretty solid global-warming evidence (as evidenced by the Union of Concerned Scientist paper, but the rest of the paragraph veers off like a wobbly hurricane.
Although he is couching it in terms that make it hard to specifically deny the claims, and again, he throws in the tedious claim that "George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane.", like anyone is out there saying it was him throwing the switch that sent Katrina slamming into the Gulf Coast. But he still on solid, logical, grounds by claiming (for the fourth point in a row) that GWB didn't cause the hurricane. Alright already, can we agree on that point and move along?
5.) George Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane contingency plans for New Orleans. Those are drawn up by New Orleans and Louisiana. In any event, the plans were perfectly good: mandatory evacuation. It is in no way at all George Bush's fault that about 20 percent of New Orleans neglected to follow the plan. It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.
Cold. That's all I can say - cold. Here's a guy with a car, in good health and is mobile (as for good sense, well, let's reserve that discussion for later) - easy to cast stones now, isn't it? I find the use of the word "neglected" to be particularly harsh. These types of people find it hard if not impossible to "travel a mile in someone else's shoes", and so he has to say they "neglected" to evacuate, not even leaving open the possibility that maybe they couldn't.
And we finally get somewhere that I will disagree. It is George Bush's fault that the people running things didn't have a better plan. We'll get into specifics later, but a huge evacuation like this is not a city or state problem - it is a national problem, and needs to be dealt with at a national level. And if, as we might agree, it was important to evacuate more people, then he, as Commander In Chief, should have had the people in place who could come up with a plan to get everyone out of there, not just the mobile. You can read about how Cuba evacuated 1.5 million people in the face of Hurricane Ivan, to suffer no deaths, here. It seems to me that if you tell a population of nearly a million people to leave somewhere, and 80% of them do, then you are doing pretty well. For the rest, you need both transportation and, even more importantly, somewhere to go. Neither of which the Feds supplied.
6.) George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, did not make gang bangers rape young girls in the Superdome, did not make looters steal hundreds of weapons, in short make New Orleans into a living hell.
Except that if he and/or his minions had done a better job all around, no-one would have been left there to do any of this. And if they had done a better job of getting in there, many of these vicious acts could have been prevented. Instead, he played guitar while New Orleans drowned.
7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.
Whoa, where did this come from? And exactly what proof does he have of this? Note again the attacking, aggressive posture. It is important to do this when you don't have a leg to stand on. Then you might defend against the attack, rather than against a totally specious, outrageous claim. Note also he doesn't say that George Bush isn't a racist - no, that's not enough. He needs to pull out the superlatives and postulate that he's the least racist President ever! Nice work!
Also note how Stein gradually segues from the pointless ("Georgie didn't cause the hurricane") to the arguable ("There is no such thing as global warming") to the totally outrageous ("Georgie is the least racist president ever"). You're lulled into thinking Stein is trying hard to be fair and then he slaps you upside the head with this whopper. And then has the unmitigated gall to say anyone who claims otherwise is being "scandalously untrue"! Again, a typical tactic of the right-wing press. Make whopping, unsubstantiated claims and then say you're an idiot, fool or worse if you have the temerity to disagree.
8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.
Of course, just a few points ago, he was saying that Georgie had nothing to do with the contingency plans and now he's saying he's doing everything to help out. Nice to have your cake and eat it too, isn't it? Of course, any level-minded person would wonder just why, a week after Katrina hit, that they are still "organizing" and just "starting to arrive". Nice emergency response. Of course, Louisiana isn't a Bush stronghold, unlike some other, hurricane ravaged states...
And you also might wonder about Georgie's state of mind. Obvious pictures like him playing the guitar while New Orleans drowned might lead someone to worry about his demeanor, but not the right-wing press. Georgie's attitude is much better skewered here.
For instance, Stein might want to read this story on CNN.com, to see if Bush and his cronies really are "rushing ... help .. as soon as he can": The big disconnect on New Orleans
9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.
Again, note the aggressive offensive attack - brook no quarter, realize no opposition. It's also important to use words that offer no gray area, like "not the slightest", "to say otherwise", etc. Again, there are plenty out there who would disagree, even if it is slanderous. Heck, he might even try reading The Wall Street Journal to see a differing "slanderous" opinion: Behind Poor Katrina Response, A Long Chain of Weak Links
10.) If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off.
Here's yet another tactic of the conservative apologists that are everywhere in the media these days. You take the high road by blaming someone for something that didn't happen and claim you are doing better. So he blames "the media" (presumably the "liberal" medai, which is, again, a false canard trotted out time and time again to explain Georgie's total failure of leadership), for something nobody is saying - that the President is responsible for the hurricane. But it is always important in these diatribes to lash out at the media, or it wouldn't count.
11.) New Orleans is a great city with many great people. It will recover and be greater than ever. Sticking pins into an effigy of George Bush that does not resemble him in the slightest will not speed the process by one day.
Now he's not even defending Georgie, Ben is just whining about how hard they are on the poor fellow. Again, note the double standard - he's a great leader, but don't blame him if things under his watch are going wrong. It always seems to be Somebody Else's Fault when things go completely wrong, but "You can count on me" if it goes right.
12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.
Here you have one more conservative bogeyman (or woman, in this case). It isn't a real "defense on the offense" right-wing article unless there is at least one shot at the Clintons, especially Hilary now. Note the hyperbole; the "callousness" is "breathtaking" - well, he's certainly right there. But he has to go and quantify it by saying "government officials at the ground level", whatever the hell that means. So, again, everything that went wrong is the "ground level"'s fault, but the "miracles" and "bravery" exhibited are all His Man's contributions.
As a famous rabbit once said: "What an ultra-maroon!"