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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Tell Me A Story

Thursday, September 08, 2005

On vacation at my parents' house in Colorado, one of the benefits is that they have cable, a commodity that I am too cheap to pay for myself. So while here, I watch cable. Specifically, I watch C-SPAN.

For nearly an hour yesterday afternoon, the family gathered 'round the telly and watched press conferences, mostly the White House press conference held by Press Secretary Scott McClellan. More than a question-and-answer session between the press and the administration's spokesperson, it was a dazzling display of storytelling.

The story, in basic outline, goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a horrible natural disaester. Lots of people died. Suffering was immense. Into that time of death and suffering rode one President George W. Bush, trailed by his heroic band of problem-solvers. They knew their work would be challenging, and they knew the life of an entire region was at stake. But their biggest enemy would not be toxic flood waters; their biggest enemy would be those people called "the press," who constantly assail our hero with attempts to engage him in a "blame game," and "finger-pointing." Luckily for us, our hero's resolve is sure, and he will deflect the attacks of his pen-wielding adversary in order to focus on "the task at hand." He is our hero: The Problemsolver.

This is the story coming from the White House. Over and over again the Press Secretary deflected questions of accountability with the charge that "some people in this room" were trying to engage the administration in a blame game. This exchange was emblematic:

Q. "Scott, does the President retain confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security?"

MR. McCLELLAN: "And again, David, see, this is where some people want to look at the blame game issue, and finger-point. We're focused on solving problems, and we're doing everything we can -- "

Q "Does he retain complete confidence -- "

MR. McCLELLAN: "We're going to continue. We appreciate the great effort that all of those at FEMA, including the head of FEMA, are doing to help the people in the region. And I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or finger-pointing that you're trying to get me to engage."

Q "Okay, but that's not at all what I was asking."

MR. McCLELLAN: "Sure it is. It's exactly what you're trying to play. "

This is the Bush administration at its best, weaving a story from the bungled detais, trusting that the press and the public don't have the attention span to get to the bottom of the truth. In this case the issue is accountability. The administration's story is that questions of accountability are "finger-pointing" and "blame-gaming." Further, by characterizing those questions as such, they take the focus off of the people who need focused on, replacing them instead with the press itself.

It's so Rove-esque as to be frightening: tell the press a story, casting yourself as the hero and somebody else as the villain. Details are unimportant--impression is everything.

And by the time we get around to actually answering questions of administration accountability, our attention will have moved on to something else.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:59 AM


Rocky... so, hmm... all this mismanagement in just the past 5 years? Sounds a little short-sighted.
commented by Anonymous matt, 6:39 AM  
by the way, to back up what I just said, according to the Washington Post, Louisiana got more Army Corps of Engineer money in the last 5 years under the Bush admin. than any other state (1.9 billion last year alone, compared to California at 1.4 billion). That marks an increase from the Clinton admin. Of course, there was a recent reduction in the amount that was requested. But, most of the money went toward keeping New Orleans dry. Hmmm... fixing the symptoms instead of the cause... perhaps this is the responsibility of the LOCAL governments who are responsible for administration of this money? I'm sorry to be so opinionated, but I am just becoming frustrated by the finger-pointing... mostly because the fingers are only looking for the easy target and not the truth, i.e. "Bush hates black people" - Kanye West. Hmm... well, what about all the white people who got screwed by a _natural_ disaster. Does Bush hate them too? I just don't get it. Obviously, there has been a good deal of administrative screwing of the pooch... and deflecting that criticism without substantial dialogue is silly. But, don't be duped into a race-baiting, party-line war when there is plenty of blame to go around.
commented by Anonymous matt, 6:55 AM  
Matt: far too many stupid things have been said in the last two weeks to account for them all. People want a scapegoat, and the easiest one is the one sitting at the top.
But my interest is much less in the actual merits of where accountability for the slow response lies and more in the mechanized response of the Executive Administration. Surely the state and local authorities will have their pitch to spin later, but the Bush administration has been out front in deflecting questions of accountability with these "blame game" and "problem solver" buzz words. That's what I find so irritating, this highly orchestrated weaving of a story to sell to the press, a story that casts the Bush administration as the heroes riding into town to solve problems and taking the moral high road. It's a story, man, just a story.
commented by Blogger Rocky, 4:56 AM  
I agree with Rocky. During the last week, things seem to have gotten a little better with Bush taking some responsibility.
commented by Anonymous Scott, 5:16 PM  
Hey Rock, check out my newly created blog: http://cambrascott.blogspot.com/
commented by Anonymous Scott, 9:56 PM  

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