Revealed at Last

So the truth is out. The well-kept secret that there is a large and growing gap between rich and poor in the US has suddenly tumbled out of the bag and into the spotlight. Well whaddya know – you mean all those people working in Walmarts and motels and chicken-processing plants and McDonald’s aren’t earning enough to buy a big house in the suburbs and an SUV? Well I’ll be damned – I coulda sworn everybody who did an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay in this country got to be a millionaire in a couple of years or so.

As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s…Instead of secretive “Deep Throat” meetings in car-parks, cameras captured the immediate reality of what was happening at the New Orleans Convention Center, making a mockery of the stalling and excuses being put forward by those in power.

And of the deeply fake folksy ‘concern’ of the scurrying president.

National politics reporters and anchors here come largely from the same race and class as the people they are supposed to be holding to account. They live in the same suburbs, go to the same parties, and they are in debt to the same huge business interests. Giant corporations own the networks, and Washington politicians rely on them and their executives to fund their re-election campaigns across the 50 states. It is a perfect recipe for a timid and self-censoring journalistic culture…

That’s for sure. It’s also a perfect recipe for a thoroughly corrupt political process – and that’s the meal we get.

But last week the complacency stopped, and the moral indignation against inadequate government began to flow, from slick anchors who spend most of their time glued to desks in New York and Washington. The most spectacular example came last Friday night on Fox News, the cable network that has become the darling of the Republican heartland. This highly successful Murdoch-owned station sets itself up in opposition to the “mainstream liberal media elite”. But with the sick and the dying forced to sit in their own excrement behind him in New Orleans, its early-evening anchor Shepard Smith declared civil war against the studio-driven notion that the biggest problem was still stopping the looters.

It’s interesting. If even Fox suddenly realizes there’s something wrong – maybe the giant irrelevance that is US politics will take a turn for the non-infantile.

When the back-slapping president told the Fema boss on Friday morning that he was doing “a heck of a job” and spent most of his first live news conference in the stricken area praising all the politicians and chiefs who had failed so clearly, it beggared belief.

Yes, and then there was that little problem with the delay of supplies

Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said. The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana…

Oops. But hey – what’s a little delay of food to flood victims when you’ve got a swell funny guy like Bush around cracking jokes and cheering everyone up with his blithe indifference to suffering on a scale we can’t even take in?

We’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we’re going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we’re going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is — and it’s hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house — there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)

Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that just a thigh-slapper? Doesn’t it make you wish you’d been Bush’s roommate at Yale, or that Texas high school he went to for awhile, or somewhere? Sure it does.

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