By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Because I'm a liberal and I'm better and more compassionate than you, I am bleeding, which is nothing new; between my heart and my status as a full-growed womyn, I usually look like Carrie on prom night. Message: I care! I do, I do, I do! I bleed and I gnash and I weep pregnant tears for the dispossessed and the hungry locked out of the Promised Land and those suffering from a lack of Christ's love.
What—what—will we do for those poor Republicans?
Some hilarious wag called the GOP the party of evil and the Dems the party of stupid, but it seems the Republicans lately have cornered both markets. Because I'm a Democrat, I like a fair fight. It's no fun going to a ball game and seeing a wipeout, even if my Angels win. I like something close, something hard-fought and exciting all the way through. And that's why I'm here: to give you some tips to regain your footing in the war for America's soul. I have no doubt you'll eventually get it; you're terrific about screeching your stupid talking points ad infinitum, while Dems get bored repeating the same thing over and over (and also are hampered by their silly insistence on telling the truth). That's why you only saw bitching about the New Orleans levees funding getting slashed by half for the first two days after the catastrophe. We don't like to bore people with the same points again and again. We said that one already! And we will continue on with our Thousand Points of Why You're to Blame, one by one, setting each one free to drift off down the river without its 999 sisters, the unified whole obvious only to those who read newspapers and who remember stuff—which, as you know, is no one. So you go ahead and keep on repeating yourselves. It'll probably work in the long haul, once people have stopped making fun of y'all talking about your finger-pointing blame-gaming in the midst of an ongoing investigation.
• New catch phrase, stat! That whole finger-pointing blame-game thang is too transparent even for you, especially while everyone watches you point your bejeweled fingers at the hapless (and Democratic) Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Can't you at least come up with some synonyms to keep things interesting? From my Roget's, I offer you (abridged): admonish, ascribe, blast, blow the whistle on, censure, charge, chide, climb all over, condemn, criticize, denounce, disapprove, find fault with, finger, frame, hold responsible, impugn, indict, jump all over, jump down one's throat, lay a bad trip on, taxand upbraid—although you might want to skip "hold responsible" and "indict." How cool is this: "Anderson, I'd love to answer your question, but like I said, the president's not going to get into a fault-finding fest"?
• Do keep repeating "act of God"—that gets the wild-eyed fundies up in your corner—but cut it out with the "God destroyed a city of sin" shit. People like their cities of sin. North Carolina housewives liked taking a hens' weekend together in New Orleans and getting away from their Gladys Kravitz neighbors. Just keep with the "act of God" stuff because that's super-secret code and will fly right over most people's heads. Also, can it with the talk about how God destroyed New Orleans because of its abortion clinics (at least overtly). With GeorgeWill going on This Week to say the problem in New Orleans had three solutions (graduate from high school, don't have a child until you're married, and don't get married until you're 20), you're either going to have to let people have abortions or you're going to have to teach them comprehensive, science-based sex ed right thar in the schools! And if you think kids will wait till marriage to have sex, just ask yourself if you did. Liar.
• The hurricane got a lot of us thinking about race and class, and thinking is bad. It leads to liberal voting patterns. So don't actually try to have a productive dialogue about poverty, as moderate (but usually reliably apologist) Republican David Brooks has. If you start talking about sensible solutions at all, then people will want you to do something about it.
• Do frame America's scandalous poverty in your terms! Don't let the massive suffering the whole world saw deter you from abolishing the death tax—which affects only families with more than $1 million in assets. (Do stick to your guns! I mean this literally—if you're white, I mean, or an employee of a private security firm patrolling the neighborhoods of the New Orleans elite, since nobody else is allowed to have them.) And by all means, do allow the winners of no-bid contracts to rebuild the Gulf Coast to pay their workers less than the prevailing wage—a prevailing wage that in New Orleans, for hard construction work, amounts to $18,000 a year—despite the fact that the contractors are in no way obligated to pass the labor savings back to the taxpayers. Don't let it derail your hopes to pry the Social Security from those old black grannies' cold dead hands. It's that kind of can-do thinking on the president's part that brought us this far to begin with!
• Do have Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council hit the airwaves—but don't let him talk (as he did on Scarborough Country) about how pissed he was at FEMA for leaving the 11,000 people his churches were caring for in the proverbial drink. Instead, have him just keep repeating, "Faith-based, faith-based, faith-based" ad nauseam while demanding a bigger share of the Department of Homeland Security pie. While people are grateful that the churches stepped in when the gubmint was making a hash of things, not everyone's going to be happy to learn that Bush is considering outsourcing all emergency-response work to churches. Solution: Talk louder.
• Your talking point about not being able to help until the governor and mayor ask is a good one, condemning, taxing and laying a bad trip on those (Democratic) state and local officials. Keep repeating it, despite the fact that the governor and mayor both asked for help—"I need everything you've got!" Blanco said—before the storm hit. Wash, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat. And when someone like Jane Bullock, who spent 22 years at FEMA under presidents of both parties, says, "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility," repeat again. Also to be repeated? Assertions (no matter how many times disproved) that the governor didn't declare a state of emergency for a week afterwards (she did so days before the storm hit) and that the mayor had 2,000 buses he could have used to get people to safety (he didn't). Also, don't worry about the obvious contradiction: keep repeating that the storm was the kind of ultracatastrophe even FEMA couldn't handle; hope nobody notices you chiding, denouncing and impugning the governor of a state with a $17 billion annual budget and the mayor of one of the nation's poorest cities for not being able to handle what even the feds say was just too big. Concurrently, praise Mississippi Governor (and former Republican National Committee chair) Haley Barbour to the skies, despite the fact that he didn't evacuate anyone either, and his folks in Biloxi also didn't have food or water for four days after. They just weren't hanging out on their roofs—because there weren't any roofs left—so they got a lot less coverage.
• Stop saying the problem was sin—keep saying the problem was black people. Good code words to use for this: they, them, looters, welfare and government dependency. Or, if you're Rush Limbaugh, "MayorNayger."
• Definitely say the body count is lower than we all expected, and count on people not figuring out that you're asserting that while not letting the press into the morgues. You know, like Ohio's Warren County when they counted the ballots on election night!
• Go on the attack about cronyism by referring to it as affirmative action. "Indict" and "hold responsible" Mike "Drownie" Brown, since he's already resigned anyway. Ignore the fact that the four FEMA officials directly below him all had similar emergency management backgrounds—they too were White House advance people and campaign directors. Your attackers are pointing out that while FEMA's in such a dreadful mess, plum posts are being handed out to political patrons at the FDA and the EPA and all those other alphabet soups too, while the scientists who've worked there for decades are leaving in disgust. Remind them that Mike Carona appoints his cronies too, and if it's good enough for America's Sheriff, it should be good enough for you.
• Do turn the president's slow response—he didn't know till Thursday night of Katrina Week about the mass starvation and despair in New Orleans—into a positive: Mr. Bush doesn't watch the news—or read it—and that's a good thing. He's decisive! He's a leader! He follows no man's easily verifiable "reality." He doesn't listen to polls! That's for Karl Rove to do!
• Keep cracking down on the message. The New York Times reported that Ann Grossman, 56, carried a homemade sign at the happy shiny 9/11 parade last weekend that read "Honor Our Troops, Respect Their Lives." It was confiscated by police at the Pentagon. People feel comfortable when they've got strict boundaries—and, as they discovered at the march, actual fences!
• And if anybody—anybody—says President Bush doesn't care about black people, remind them that some of his best caddies are black, and bring Condi home from her shopping trip at Ferragamo. Then go buy a Kanye West album and learn to suck up to Howard Dean. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, it's your only hope.