September 8, 2005
-- by John Emerson
Bush's defenders aren't really praising his performance, but trying to divert people's attention by shifting the blame. Their two main ploys are to blame the local authorities and to blame the victims, who are portrayed as looting barbarians who try to shoot the first-responders. (The second ploy is especially prevalent under the radar -- in unofficial venues like Free Republic, for example, where gross racism runs rampant).
Time will tell how serious the violence in New Orleans really was. My feeling is that, if it had really been as bad as they're saying it was, they'd be saying that it was ten times as bad as that. But by the time we know what really happened, it will all be "old news". (The VRWC Wurlitzer has its talking points lined up in a row. Right now there should be no "blame game", because we have to deal with the problem itself. A month from now it will be time to move on to other things. For Republicans, the time for accountability is never.)
When the storm hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (one of the nastiest of Republicans) got the "looters" meme going immediately, making no exception for people looting food or water.
"I've urged the highway patrol and national guard to treat looters ruthlessly," Barbour said, "The rules of engagement will be as ruthless as the law allows." Link
As far as I know, there had been no actual looting at the time he made his statement. If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and for Barbour, apparently, everything is ultimately a police problem.
And I imagine that he knew that the time would come to assign blame, and that a little preemptive blame-the-victim would help out in the long run.
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