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The Bush Presidency: everything is a PR blowjob

Josh at Talking Points Memo found a story that reveals what has to be one of the sickest PR blowjobs of this presidency, given the nation is in the middle of a human and environmental disaster and a self-inflicted morass of war in Iraq.

How can this Administration explain taking 1,000 ready-to-go firefighters, all search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified people prepared to save lives, and sitting them down for “community relations” training. As they were lectured on sexual harassment awareness, how to hand out fliers and other social work efforts, New Orleans was being drowned under tons of water and descending into chaos.

Your president, your tax dollars, paying for a Spin Cycle Melodrama on the Gulf. (Reuters)

Even worse, the first assignment of these fire fighters was to serve as props during Bush’s field trips to the disaster zone. Yes. Props for the Puppet-ass presidency. From the Salt Lake Tribune:


Firefighters endure a day of FEMA training, which included a course on sexual harassment. Some firefighters say their skills are being wasted. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: “What are we doing here?”

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters – his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week – a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic.

“I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country,”


Firefighters line up Monday in Atlanta to give their names to FEMA personnel drawing up deployment lists. Many will be assigned to hand out fliers. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune)

The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for “austere conditions.” Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.

“They’ve got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified,” said a Texas firefighter. “We’re sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven’t been contacted yet.”

…While FEMA’s community-relations job may be an important one – displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources – it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton.

It’s a misallocation of resources. Completely,” said the Texas firefighter. “It’s just an under-utilization of very talented people,” said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta.

..Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew’s first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

So many people need to be fired for this. Actually, the whole lot of them. How can we sweep out these executive cockroaches and leeches now before the terrorists act, given we’ve exposed the complete ineptitude of our government and its officials?

Yes, the FEMA jackass “Brownie” has to go — and you can see that he’s rising to the top of the list as the Admin scapegoat, should they be forced to place the blame on someone. That doesn’t wash; it didn’t take just one incompetent boob to kill so many.

Remember, it was a PR event from the start:

The top U.S. disaster official waited hours after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast before he proposed to his boss sending at least 1,000 Homeland Security workers into the region to support rescuers, internal documents show.

Part of the mission, according to the documents obtained by The Associated Press, was to “convey a positive image” about the government’s response for victims. Acknowledging that such a move would take two days, Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29.

Brown’s memo to Chertoff described Katrina as “this near catastrophic event” but otherwise lacked any urgent language. The memo politely ended, “Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.”

Hat tip, Kos diary.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding