Mission Demolished


The President stepped onto the deck of the Iwo Jima Sunday with considerably less fanfare than was deployed for his made-for-TV boarding of the Abraham Lincoln in ‘03. And this time he left the flyboy getup hanging in the costume department.

But one thing that was not left hanging this time was a “Mission Accomplished” banner. Nor was this boat floating in picturesque San Diego Harbor. The Iwo Jima is docked along the Mississippi, just a few hundred yards from a city shattered by a gal named Katrina who may well have also laid waste to what’s left of the Bush presidency.

Bush didn’t accomplish the mission in Iraq and he downright demolished the one that involved a federal response to Katrina. It was his third trip to New Orleans since the storm, no doubt to assuage a conscience distressed by how his administration so belatedly figured out that this one was of the Biblical variety.

It did not help that the FEMA director Bush told the world was doing a “heck of a job” had just handed in a heck of a resignation and, for once, a clear majority of Americans are angered over another muffed mission.

Mr. President, who could blame you if your mind wanders back to that top-gun moment two years ago, or one year ago at your convention when you stood triumphant before delegates drunk on corporate hootch and your hokum and pronounced yourself fit to lead this country for another term.

But so much has gone awry and so much you said that night was so wrong and you knew it. Today, we know it too.

You told us that you “wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country.” Today we know that you may wake up thinking about it but you sure don’t bother to check the weather forecast before you go to bed.

You told us “the murderous regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are history,” but today we know both are back and as deadly as ever. You said that “there’s nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat,” and today we know that despite the simplicity of that proposition 1,759 more American troops have died since you declared mission accomplished.

That night you narcissistically boasted that so many family members of the fallen had told you in private meetings that “I’m in their prayers” and “offer encouragement to me.” But we know now that a grieving mother named Cindy Sheehan does not merit such a meeting because she’s off message and you’ve “got to get on with your life.”

On the fourth anniversary of 9-11 you climbed aboard the Iwo Jima in the midst of your administration’s second domestic calamity, but this time things are very different.

Gone is the bipartisan sprit movingly symbolized by Tom Daschle’s bear-hug. The reservoir of good will drained by your administration’s ruthless tactics against American heros like John Kerry, Max Cleland and Valerie Plame and your willingness to divide America by attacking the gay community and minority college students, as you gave lip service to real problems like access to health care and rising poverty.

You promised us your reelection would leave us “confident in the future of the greatest nation on earth.” But you delivered a nation that is hurtling toward bankruptcy, hated internationally, and never so torn asunder since Viet Nam, when then, as now, you stand stateside, heckling the doubters while someone else is doing the dying.

It is fitting that your administration is reaching its nadir as you visit the broken city of New Orleans. Here they conduct jazz-style funerals where people boogie and shout, even as they grieve and weep.

It is good that New Orleans long ago figured out how to squeeze joy and hope from tragedy and sadness. There’s a lot of that to be dealt with. That quirky spirit will have to carry them through.

And Mr. President, it is apropos that you’ve come to this land of mirth to try and explain away yet another failure–because no one takes you seriously anymore.

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