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Friday, March 03, 2006

All Hat, No Cattle

It's not enough that the President lies about the big things. He lies about the little ones, too. Remember the flap over Kerry ordering his cheesesteak in Philly with Swiss cheese and Rove and his malignant cronies having a field day over it? They set up a photo-op shortly afterward in Philly, with George Bush standing in front of a crowd at a Boeing plant, so he could go on camera and say:
"This is the 32nd time I’ve been to your state of Pennsylvania," he told the Boeing crowd, "and, you all know the reason why, don’t you? It’s because I like my cheesesteaks Whiz Wit’."
Except for one thing: Bushie likes his cheesesteak with American cheese, and not the Philly-preferred Cheez Whiz and provolone, too. So, no honesty from President Bush about this little cheesy detail? Hell no.
She reported that Bush actually "prefers his steak absent of the usual Cheez Whiz and provolone, accompanied only by cheese of the American variety," information that she obtained from her own Deep Throat, one Caeser Barnabei, the owner of the well-known cheesesteak shop, Jim's Place. Barnabei, who has fed the Bush camp on previous swings through Pennsylvania and provided "70 to 80 hoagies" for the Bush campaign yesterday, confided to Carey that "the Jim's Special is altered to whet the 'W' appetite."
As Matt Yglesias put it at the time, George Bush wants to be elected so badly, to do whatever it takes to cover his ass, that he is willing to lie about cheese. A completely unimportant detail to everyone (except perhaps a few die-hard Philly cheesesteak purists in Essington).

Why lie? Because he could. He and Karl and their malignant spin crew thought no one in the media would do any follow-up, that they'd move right on to the next spin cycle and never bother to look in the bottom of the washer for that one lost sock.

Too bad for them some enterprising young reporter did the follow-up (yay, Kathleen Carey). And too bad for them some enterprising reporter at the AP did a little follow-up of their own on the Katrina briefing video. And too bad we still have that video of the President just sitting on his butt, endlessly staring with that frightened rabbit in the headlights look on his face, after being informed by Andy Card that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and that we were under attack.

George Bush is a product, with all sorts of fun labeling on the box -- nifty claims of "made with whole grains" and "fortified with vitamins and minerals," but what we're really looking at is a sort of candidate who, when you get down to what is really there, is a whole lot of fluff and nonsense, lots of fillers and ultra-refined crap, with a really good marketing team behind him. He sounds good when the team has everything working like a well-oiled machine, but those moments when he's off-script, off-plan, being "real" as opposed to "scripted," you get a real sense of who he is -- and in a crisis, it's not a pretty picture.

It's this pattern of behavior with this President that concerns me, the real behavior, not the spin and the projection and the tap dance that his Wurlitzer pals try to sell like so many PR folks with a wind-up Energizer bunny in their pocket -- and it ought to concern all Americans.

Faced with a crisis or some question of his leadership, his integrity, pretty much any question at all, George Bush's first response is to freeze, then huddle with his staff and come up with a media response. It's all statement, no actual leadership, no actual work. The PR blitz becomes the entire focus of this Administration -- all campaign mode, all the time, with no real concern for doing the actual work -- for really digging into the nitty gritty and governing.

All hat, no cattle.

And you know, I could really give a rats ass about what sort of cheese George Bush likes on his cheesesteak, because it has no bearing on anything in my life. But when he lies about something larger -- when he makes promises of aid to frightened Gulf Coast residents and then fails to follow-through on those promises after Katrina hits, sitting back and not deploying every resource available while people are dying, even though he promised to do just that, I get pissed.

Or when he just sits in a classroom filled with children with a copy of "The Pet Goat" in his hands (video here), for more than five minutes, with all those lives about to be lost in Manhattan and his very first action when he finally gets out of his little chair is to huddle with Andy Card and his PR crew, not call the Pentagon, not call the WH sit room, but to huddle with his PR folks to craft a statement for the media and then ride around on Air Force One for hours, leaving Dick Cheney in charge...well, that "all hat, no cattle" really fits, doesn't it?

Dan Froomkin summed it up perfectly in yesterday's White House Briefing:
Faced with challenges like these -- an attack on our nation or a natural disaster bearing down on our shores -- we can reasonably expect that our presidents will stand up, demand answers and options, and lead.

If the White House insists that Bush did that with Hurricane Katrina, it is incumbent upon them to back up that claim up with evidence. Otherwise, the image of him mouthing platitudes threatens to become defining of his presidency.
All talk, no action. That's our President in a nutshell, isn't it?

My husband reminded me this morning of a passage from the Bible (Matthew 15:8, in case you are interested), wherein Christ rebukes the Pharisees for doing a whole lot of talking, but not actually doing what they pretend to believe.
These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
George Bush likes to do a whole lot of public courting of the religious right. But it is worth a reminder that Christ's example was that you LIVE the teachings -- ALL of them, not just the ones that help give you a wedge issue and get you elected in the short-term, but ALL of them -- because just mouthing the words and then doing as you please is...well...hypocritical and wrong.

And it seems to me that repeated lying, especially when those lies are ones which lead to deaths of Americans, lead to damage to our nation, lead to the ever-widening divide between people who live here because immediate political gain for the short term by using a nasty wedge issue is more important to this President and his malignant spin crew than long-term damage to the nation as a whole...well, as Jane said, karma can come back to haunt you. And lately it sure seems like that's been happening in spades for George Bush and his Administration, doesn't it?

Lies have a way of catching up to you. When you lie about the little things that don't matter, over and over again, it starts to add up. And maybe you can get away with that, even as President, if it doesn't affect the lives of the American people. It's craven and weak and pathetic as a character question, but if it doesn't really impact the rest of the country and their everyday lives, it can be ignored by a vast number of people, I suppose.

But when you lie about the big things: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." or "we will move in whatever assets and resources we have at our disposal after the storm..." -- but you don't actually mean them or it's just a flat-out lie, and Americans know that you don't mean it and you are lying to them...repeatedly...about things that matter -- well, then the shit really begins to hit the fan.

Americans remember people pleading for help at the Superdome...for days. They remember FEMA sending refrigerator trucks filled with ice to Maine, instead of to the Gulf Coast, where they were actually needed. They remember the President staying on vacation, getting a new guitar, appearing at public events in California, while dead bodies floated in the streets of New Orleans and people in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi were living under make-shift shelters and scavanging in the local Walmart for baby formula to keep their children alive...for days, after the storm. And the President stayed on vacation, and federal resources sat on idle...for days. (And I see that Michael Chertoff is still drawing a paycheck. Accountability? Hell no.)

The American people see soldiers dying in Iraq and car bombs exploding there on the evening news and no amount of repeated lying to them on television about the insurgency being in its "last throes" makes that go away -- and it doesn't cover the fact that the President and his Administration knew all along that there was no "mushroom cloud" immediate threat from Saddam Hussein. And that they were told there was a substantial risk for civil war in Iraq -- that could spread to other nations in the Middle East -- if they didn't do the job right from the start. The fact that the Pentagon's plans were horribly underdone, and that we are facing a huge problem there now -- no accountability from Congress, no "second guessing" as the President puts it from the Administration. Well, that's just peachy -- if we just ignore the fact that we've botched things, maybe they'll just resolve on their own, eh? Lovely.

Lies have a way of catching up to you. And for this Administration, the constant stream of lies are catching up to them all at once. No amount of spin can cover the fact that this President is all hat and no cattle.

"Trust me" sure as hell doesn't cut it any more for George Bush, does it? But with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, there will be no accountability for him either. He gets to continue to be the irresponsible frat boy, lying his way around whatever damage is done, getting away with not doing his job, having other people clean up his messes, only interacting with people who tell him he's doing a heckuva job.

You want to hold George Bush accountable? Elect a Democrat. It's that's simple. Until that happens, George Bush gets to continue to lie, hide, smear, and manipulate with impunity, because the Republican-controlled Congress will just continue to publicly mouth a few platitudes and then refuse to hold any further hearings and let George Bush and his malignant band of cronies do whatever they want without any real oversight.

You want to restore honesty to government? Then put Democrats in office who will hold him accountable. No more rubber stamp for George Bush's lies. No more.

It's time that "all hat, no cattle" learned the meaning of responsibility.

(Graphics love to BZB's Briarpatch. This photo had such a little ornery boy in his Tom Mix get-up, chasing people around with his pop gun feel to it. So perfect.)

UPDATE: I'm informed by "Tony" that no decent person orders their cheesesteak with provolone. When I was in grad school at UPenn in Philly, I got mine with Whiz and provolone, so clearly I'm not a purist, either. But I didn't insert my own preference above, I got the info from a local reporter who covered the issue initially, so clearly there is some local debate on what constitutes proper cheese on a cheesesteak, too. None of the "cheesy" debate, though, gets around the fact that George Bush actually likes his with American cheese -- and he lied about it, in public, to make himself look better for an election. George Bush can't even be honest about cheese -- what a wanker.