THE BLOG

If Only the Wildfires Were Fake, Too

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET

Contrary to the lack of news reports - two fires still burn uncontained in Southern California. One, the Santiago Fire, continues to threaten homes. But it's all almost a quaint memory of the past. (Except for those people whose homes are threatened, of course.)

Taking a step back from the heat, it's impossible not to shake your head at some of the gumfummery that went on. On the one hand, you have to admire, FEMA's impressive fake news which made Jon Stewart look like a piker. On the other, it's difficult to know if FEMA is the Disaster Relief Agency, or the disaster Relief Agency.

Yet as you look back, you realize it's not old news. It's the same old story.

Referring to FEMA's now-infamous fake press conference during the wildfires, White House press secretary Dana Perino had commented. "It's not something I would have condoned. And they -- I'm sure -- will not do it again." She added, "I don't think that there was any mal-intent."

Now, why in the world would anyone possibly think that?

Oh, sure, some might point out that it actually is something the White House condones. But that's unfair. "Condoning" implies the actions of others, and this Administration is hands on.

After all, the White House created fake journalist "Jeff Gannon" from his porn background and tried to pass him off as legit, even letting him ask a non-porn question to President George Bush.

After all, the Administration paid columnist Armstrong Williams to promote White House interests as fake "news" in his columns.

After all, the White House hired fake journalist Karen Ryan to produce Administration "video reports" about Social Security that aired on TV stations as if they were news.

So, why, indeed, should anyone think there was "mal-intent" by FEMA in holding a fake press conference and passing it off as real? It was just Bush Administration business as usual. That's not mal-intent. It's just plain, old intent.

How egregious was it? The man, Pat Philbin, was actually refused a promotion. Oh, sure, any other company would have fired him on the spot, but this is the Bush Administration. Not getting a promotion is actually a big deal. Just be grateful he didn't get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"This is simply inexcusable and offensive to the secretary that such a mistake could be made," DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner insisted. "Stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated."

Oh, sure they will be, they are all the time. (See above.) And Pat Philbin wasn't fired on the spot, that's pretty close to the definition of "tolerated." To be fair, Ms. Keehner was not clear about what the "mistake" was: whether people were upset at the stunt itself or that it was discovered. Also, the former-hiring of a horse show organizer to head FEMA is not officially considered a "stunt." Michael Brown went through the normal vetting process, so it too counts as business as usual.

The reason something like this happens is simple: it's the culture of the Bush Administration.

Not surprisingly, the most egregious offense has come from President George Bush. In the midst of the raging infernos, in the midst of firefighters risking their lives, in the midst of the community working together to deal with the disaster, the leader of all Americans made his guest appearance and brought faux-comfort by snidely saying about relief efforts:

"It makes a significant difference when you have somebody in the statehouse willing to take the lead."

Yes, with firestorms raging all around him, George Bush made the whole thing political.

Forget that Arnold Schwarzenegger really didn't do much. Forget that firefighters got things under control because the wind finally died down. Forget even that one disaster wiped a major American city off the map, destroying 350,000 homes, while the other (horrible and tragic as it was) left San Diego to Lake Arrowhead intact, and days later, officials held a football game.

Forget all that. Just ask - what in heaven's name was the President of All the People in the United States doing injecting politics in a natural disaster by chiding Louisiana when thousands of people are suffering??? This is a man who admonished others after Katrina to not play The Blame Game. Apparently, it's okay. Honestly, it would be preferable if instead he actually helped New Orleans re-build, but that's probably asking to much. It's far too ironic to recognize that the city's initials are N.O.

Never mind the additional irony that it took President George Bush a full week to provide help to New Orleans. Or as he puts it, "to take the lead." Meanwhile, the people of Louisiana treaded water.

To the Bush Administration, politics is the core of every disaster. In its response to 9/11, to global warming, to the health care crisis for children, to the firing of U.S. Attorneys, to Iraq, to the wildfires of Southern California, and to the lack of response with Katrina.

And then the cherry on top:

The president's default answer to anything in his Administration gone bad. When asked to compare how the government handled Katrina and the wildfires, he replied instead...as always, "There's all kinds of time for historians to compare this response or that response."

For a proud C-student, Mr. Bush sure seems to love history now more than he did in college.

As someone claiming an era of personal responsibility, the president's refusal to take responsibility and leave that chore to "history" points out his hypocrisy with a beacon.

But it's more than that.

There was a fire raging at the time. There was a city struggling to rebuild itself at the time. Both are still on-going. That's not a question "left" to historians. That's not a question "left" to anyone. That's current events. That's the job description of the President of the United States.

And all this from a self-proclaimed Compassionate Conservative. God save us from the uncompassionate ones.

Nah, let's make it easy. Let's just deal with the devil we know: saving us from the self-proclaimed compassionate ones is job enough.

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