Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Happy Anniversary, suckers

NEW ORLEANS (AFP)--US President George W. Bush pretended to mourn Hurricane Katrina's victims and made an empty vow to do right by its survivors, one year after the killer storm devastated New Orleans, appalled the world, and forever dipped his presidency in shit.

Bush took "full responsibility" in a speech here for Washington's botched response to the public relations disaster, promised "we're addressing what went wrong with our spin control" and predicted that this festive city would someday be "louder, brasher and better, like Baghdad."

"This anniversary is not an end. And so I've come back to say that we will stand with the people of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi until the job is done," he said, before flying to Crawford to continue his vacation.

Before he left, he also pleaded with those who have yet to return to New Orleans, saying: "The people of this city have a responsibility as well. I know you love New Orleans. And New Orleans needs you. She needs people coming home who will work cheap."

"I take full responsibility for the federal government's response," said Bush, who has drawn fierce criticism over the past year for his criminally incompetent handling of the storm and for waiting days to sober up and make his first post-Katrina visit here.

The president, who ran for office in 2000 as a "compassionate conservative" eager to exploit social ills like poverty and lackluster education, acknowledged that the city faced huge obstacles like violent crime and a lack of basic services such as hospitals and supermarkets regardless of a massive application of federal funds to Bush Family associates.

The city known as the Big Easy sidestepped the worst of Katrina's winds when the hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. But the violent storm surge smashed levees and floods swallowed 80 percent of the city, reaching depths of 20 feet in some areas. The bulk of the storm's more than 1,500 deaths were in those flooded neighborhoods, and no one could have anticipated any of it.

Bush's approval ratings, already tanking under the weight of the illegal war of conquest in Iraq and worries that the economy is ready to take a major dump, sank into Mel Gibson territory after the unbelievably incompetent government response to Katrina, and have failed to recover.

White House officials have sought to counter criticisms of the reconstruction shellgame, saying that Washington appropriated 110 billion dollars and it's up to state and local governments to decide how best to spend it. Just 44 billion dollars have been spent thus far, mostly in up-front no-bid payments to friends of the Bush Family.

Before attending a somber memorial service at Saint Louis Cathedral, Bush took his motorcade down Canal Street, still blighted by boarded-up storefronts and shattered windows, to Betsy's House of Pancakes.

As he squeezed past tables, waitress Joyce Labruzzo jokingly asked him: "Mister President, are you going to turn your back on me?"

"No, ma'am," Bush said, with a nervous laugh and an awkward pause. "Not again."

Secret service agents neutralized the threat with alarming efficiency.

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