Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush Meets With Republican Good Ol' Boy, But Not Sheehan

When Cindy Sheehan held a lengthy vigil near George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch last summer and endured oppressive heat, dehydration and right-wing hecklers, she was there to ask Bush one simple question: "For what noble cause did my son die?"

The president of Gold Star Families for Peace, Sheehan lost her son, Casey, on April 4, 2004 when he was killed in Iraq.

Bush aides made lame excuses every day last August including citing his schedule -- he clearly had a lot of brush to clear and many bike rides to take -- as a reason for denying Sheehan's request for a 15-minute meeting with the man she still blames for her son's death.

A grieving mother, who gave her only son fighting in a war started by this president and she wants a meeting with him? Tough luck and have a nice summer, said Team Bush.

But let a good ol' boy from Louisiana show up in front of the White House to express concern over the slow process of getting Hurricane Katrina relief, and Georgie's schedule opens up faster than George Allen can spit out a racial slur. Rockey Vaccarella, of St. Bernard Parish, towed a replica of a FEMA trailer from Louisiana to the White House to insist on a meeting with Bush.

Vaccarella said he wanted to thank Bush for what little help has come to Katrina victims, but also said that he was coming because he didn’t want the federal government and President Bush "to forget about us."

Lo and behold, Bush decided to take the meeting. Oh, you should also know that, while he didn't lose a child in Iraq or anything, Rockey is a Bush supporter who once ran as a Republican candidate for the St. Bernard Parish Council.

“We have hope that he will join me for dinner. And, why would he not? Why won't he talk to an American?" said Vaccarella on August 21 as he journeyed toward Washington. "He talks to people from China. He talks to people from Israel and many other countries. So why wouldn't he talk to me - an American?”

No reason at all, Rockey, as long as you're not the mother of a dead soldier and you are a fawning sycophant or can otherwise be used for political gain.

As it turns out, Vaccarella worked out well on both counts.

While something admirable could have come from Bush taking the time to meet with a person representing those his administration let down so badly almost a year ago, you could have thrown a rock in the Ninth Ward and hit someone better than Vaccarella to deliver that message.

"I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us," said Rockey, starting out sounding like he meant business.

But then he said what I'm sure had people lucky enough to actually be in FEMA trailers in New Orleans throwing shoes at their televisions: "If we had this President for another four years, I think we'd be great," said Vaccarella.

Good freakin' grief.

This was spoken by a man who drove all the way to Washington, DC with a trailer festooned with a banner reading "Forgotten on the Bayou." And the president seemed happy to be there too saying "Rock is a plain-spoken guy. He's the kind of fellow I feel comfortable talking to."

Yeah, I'm sure that was like a meeting of the Algonquin Round Table, all right.

Meanwhile, as Bush mouthed words indicating that the federal government is now ready to help Katrina victims, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released "Broken Promises," a report that details the enormity of the Bush administration's abysmal response to Katrina.

"One year ago, Katrina and Rita taught the American people the terrible lesson that their government was not prepared to protect them," said Reid. "Unfortunately, one year after the hurricanes and five years after 9/11, Bush Republicans in Washington still have not taken that lesson to heart."

Included in the report were findings that $2 billion in FEMA funding for Katrina relief has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse and 80 percent of Gulf Coast businesses with approved SBA disaster loans are still waiting to get their money.

The report also found that only 56 of 128 public schools in New Orleans are open for the 2006-2007 school year, while also pointing out that the Republican Congress stalled housing money for Louisiana homeowners until June, 10 months after Katrina – and most of that money has still not been received by homeowners.

But there was Rocky Vaccarella telling the guy who presided over all of this that he wished he could stay in office and that his reign of error could be extended.

And what of Cindy Sheehan?

Well, she had to buy property near Bush's ranch to continue her quest to get a few similar minutes with him after the local county commissioners banned roadside camping and parking to shield Bush from the terror of a grief-stricken mother. And, when White House Spokesman Tony Snow was asked if Bush would meet with Sheehan this month in Texas, he indicated that they didn't have time for her and nicely added "I would advise her to bring water, Gatorade or both," for the long hours she would spend waiting in the summer heat.

Sheehan has already approached a roadblock by Bush's ranch once this month and, when stopped by Secret Service agents, said simply "My name is Cindy and Bush killed my son."

She should know that's not going to cut it.

To see this guy, you need to be a good ol' boy, a supporter, a Republican and one who is showing up primarily to get a goofy photo opportunity with a president -- even the worst ever -- and not really have anything difficult to say.

"You know, it's really amazing when a small man like me from St. Bernard Parish can meet the President of the United States," said Vaccarella, standing on the White House grounds with Bush Tuesday. "The president is a people person."

As long as you're the right kind of person, I'm sure he is.