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Hurricane Katrina

Empty Promises Are the New Black

Introducing a new line of fresh nonsense can be a tricky business, but Bush managed it well in his New Orleans speech.
It didn't matter how great the ovation that greeted the brooding Michael Chertoff was, as he expanded his line of carefully embroidered denials; or how detailed the chiseled John Roberts' fashioned his impenetrable suit of murky conviction; or how darkly were woven Donald Rumsfeld's comfortably reliable patchwork deceptions; it was abundantly obvious that everyone in the known universe (Washington) was waiting for the Big Pump to drop.

That the balloons signaling the end of Fashion Week at the White House wouldn't fall until the man himself, the Dubyah, unveiled his Gulf Coast rhetorical onslaught, and to say Karl Rove, the creative director at House of Bush, didn't disappoint, is akin to inferring that Karl Lagerfeld has an impish sense of humor.

Commandeering an oppressively desolate Jackson Square as a backdrop, President Bush swaggered briskly to his podium, resplendent in a starched blue work shirt echoing his watery theme in the middle of a breathtakingly beautiful Big Easy night. As a dramatically staged response to critics who had heaped derision on the House's slapdash and untailored response to Hurricane Katrina, the results were nothing less than stunning. The work shirt was a masterly touch, featuring sleeves impeccably rolled up, undoubtedly the result of one of the many master sleeve rollers Rove reportedly has on call from the fabric slums of Milan.

Introducing a new line of fresh nonsense can be an exceedingly tricky business but the Commander in Chief was up to the task as he deftly paid homage to the classic material and traditional patterns of past designers such as Johnson and Roosevelt, offering up the simple and timeless elegance of the promise of government help.

He even playfully dipped into the trademarked "Emperor's New Clothes" Family line, doling out rustic albeit purely ornamental anecdotes and one liners. From his first crooked smile to his halting farewell, this was an exercise in white space and a triumphant return of the empty but well-constructed suit we've come to know and love during times of crisis.

Liquid and pliable and fluid and inexact, the sludge coming out of his mouth cleverly matched the toxic moat surrounding the Ninth Ward. If one color stood out, it could be called ochre, auburn, burnt sienna or, as it is probably referred to in the House of Bush: good ol' brown. But not Brownie.

You could see it in his speech, for although his breeding and discretion kept him from describing the river of human feces that floated past former parade routes, his verbal weave was oddly reminiscent of it. Perhaps in an attempt to play off George's Wild West heritage, Mssrs Bush and Rove consciously manufactured audio reverberations of the litterings of a bull pen, and his target audience, a group of well-screened and thoroughly devoted fascistnistas, was simultaneously stunned and dazed by the audacity and humility of it all.

It was a night of fusion, a celebration of the sober alongside the frivolous. And if anybody could pull off this attempt to return to business as usual by way of ridiculous theater, it was George W. Bush. Whether this season's line can catapult his fortunes back from his last disastrous attempt is of intense interest to the House of Bush's comrades and competitors. Has he re-ushered in a new era of nostalgic deficit spending or is the runway smoke machine set on eleven? Still your beating heart: only time will tell.
Political Comic Will Durst thinks the runway smoke machine is set on eleven.
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