The Sweetness of the Smoking Gun
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For the past six years, I've been worried that, despite the Bush administration's obvious incompetence, we would never be able to really bust them in the old-fashioned gotcha sense. And this culture needs the gotcha, we're addicted to the smoking gun theory. We just can't seem to reason this stuff out.
It's even worse now than it used to be; according to news reports, jurors who have grown accustomed to the action on C.S.I. won't even convict anymore unless there are gobs of physical evidence found at the scene of the crime. They need fingerprints, loose hair, and maybe a half cup of the accused's spit left at the scene of the crime.
On the political scene, it's even worse. We had Nixon and his incredibly stupid taping system. We were spoiled. (Can you imagine how wonderful it was to be a liberal Democrat the day the news broke about the tapes? Can you feel the glee?)
But this administration has a well-known obsession for secrecy -- and why wouldn't you if about a third of your administration was bent on funneling cash to the corporate elite, the other third was focused on subverting the Constitution, and the last third couldn't tie their shoes without bumping their heads -- so despite how obvious their awfulness was, I feared we would just never get them. After all, we hear about the August briefings in which Bush was warned that terrorists were planning to use planes as weapons, but we aren't really there, we don't actually see it, and consequently Bush never truly has to answer for his tragic failure there.
But yesterday â€¦
â€¦ yesterday we learned there is video of Bush telling state officials, "We are fully prepared" for Katrina.
This is the same briefing at which a top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees. This is the same briefing at which Michael Brown, then the Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome. In this same briefing Bush asked zero questions. "We are fully prepared."
There he is, on video, for the world to see, the CEO president making empty promises and offering hollow assurances to state officials. Enron's Jeff Skilling couldn't have done it any better.
The administration's response to this comes with its own twisted logic. "I hope people don't draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing," Bush spokesman Trent Duffy said, "He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times."
Even if that were true (and the fact that Bush didn't ask a single question during the briefing gives even the most generous juror a sense of doubt about that) then it's actually even a greater indictment of this administration. If he were "completely engaged" in the unfolding tragedy, then he would have had the good sense to maybe skip that birthday party with McCain.
So, if anyone is left with any doubts about Bush and Company, if anyone is wavering out there or maybe thinks that he's being unfairly accused, all I can say is, um, let's go to the tape.
Toby Barlow is a writer living in Brooklyn.