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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- When under attack, the Busheviks are supremely predictable. They send out an army of hacks and flacks to blame others for their failures and divert attention from the truth. When they're really under fire --as they are now for their horrific response to Hurricane Katrina -- they rouse the vice president, Lord Halliburton. He reluctantly leaves the bat cave and ventures out to try to clean up the mess and cover for his subordinates, most notably George W. Bush.

While this strategy and the slick cynicism of the administration have worked for five painful years, they're failing now. It's about time. George W. Bush has always been a weak figurehead, a hapless prop and mindless mannequin for the moneyed interests he serves.

He is an incompetent manager, an isolated and insensitive human being whose entire life has been shaped by the entitlements of his privileged class. His failure to deal with Katrina, a tragedy that inordinately afflicts the "underprivileged" as his mama calls them, is no surprise. The poor have never been anywhere on Bush's personal and political agendas.

Every prominent African-American voice in our nation -- with the ignoble exception of Condoleezza Rice -- is expressing outrage and indignation over the crony-infested Bush administration's sheer incompetence and inexcusable negligence in dealing with the disaster that is taking such a horrible toll on poor black people. They, far more than others, are the dead, the suffering and the displaced.

As the Gulf states were swamped, Condi was vacationing in New York City, spending thousands of dollars on one of her Imelda Marcos designer-shoes shopping sprees. As she decorated her feet, poor people in her native Alabama were walking barefoot through toxic muck trying to bring food, water and medicine to trapped relatives.

Rice curtailed her power shopping when the White House needed a black face to defend her indefensible boss. She slipped down to Alabama and assured people that George W. Bush was their vigilant protector, and the federal government's response to Katrina was nothing short of marvelous. Some people will say anything.

It's telling that, when Bush finally did cut short his French nobleman's vacation and deign to step on the ground in the flood-ravaged Gulf, he didn't head to the poor neighborhoods of New Orleans or visit the desperate souls in the Superdome. There, he would see mostly black, poor and Democratic faces.

No, our commander in leisure first showed his empathy in 70 percent-white Biloxi, Miss. There, a Republican mayor and Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican national chairman, surrounded him.

After heading the GOP, Barbour became a powerful, multimillionaire Washington lobbyist, cozy with his cronies in the Bush administration. Barbour got a $50 billion tax break for the tobacco industry, and -- with Lord Halliburton's help -- got Bush to reverse his campaign promise to impose tough carbon dioxide emission standards on utilities.

As the people of Mississippi suffer, their governor is effusive in praising Bush's handling of the disaster and serves as an echo chamber for the White House lies.

Also on hand for the wealthy white men's tour of Mississippi was Sen. Trent Lott. He lost his home in Katrina. Bush told Lott -- who relinquished his post as majority leader after waxing nostalgic for the era of Strom Thurmond's segregated South -- that he longed for the day when they could sit and visit on Lott's new back porch.

The impoverished Mississippians don't get much of Bush's attention, but a politician's plantation sure does. He feels the pain of wealthy landowners throughout the South, but is unable to make any connection with the poor masses.

Katrina has exposed for all with eyes to see what Michael Harrington described 40 years ago as the "other" America.

James Carroll wrote in the Boston Globe that the sight was jarring. "The wealthiest nation on earth has its hidden legion of have-nots, and all at once the rest of us saw them. The scandal of rank poverty was exposed, and if beholding it was like seeing something indecent, that's because such poverty in this nation is exactly that -- indecent," Carroll wrote.

By nature and nurturing, George W. Bush's eyes don't see this reality and he is unable to recognize the indecency.

Bush inherited his mother's numb insensitivity toward the poor, reflected in her Marie Antoinette gushing about evacuees in Houston so happy with the Texas "hospitality." Who's your momma?

We shouldn't be surprised that the Bush response to the plight of the poor in the Gulf ranged from malign neglect to mindless nonchalance. In George Bush's America, poverty rates have risen, middle-class incomes are stagnant, wage-earners are forced to pay the debt to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent, public infrastructure is crumbling, and 45 million people are without health insurance.

Bush's campaign supporters at country clubs across America are celebrating his regime. Corporate profits are on the rise. CEO salaries and bonuses are obscene. The martini-sippers are paying a significantly smaller share of the national tax burden, and their investment income is hardly taxed at all. T

he irrepressible Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle shares my not-so-great expectations of George W. Bush. "The rich man's CEO is executing his job requirements perfectly," Morford writes. He says international criticism of George W. is unfair and he's only serving his handlers' agenda.

"After all, Bush has always been the rich man's president. He is the CEO president, the megacorporate businessman's friend, the thug of the religious right, and a big reservoir-tipped condom for all energy magnates, protecting against the nasty STDs of humanitarianism and progress and social responsibly," Morford writes.

Last week, Congress was quick to appropriate another $50 billion for relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But Republican leaders in the House limited debate on the measure to 40 minutes so the occasion wouldn't be used as a forum to question and criticize Bush's ineptness and failure to lead.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat who represents Niagara Falls, tried to squeeze more time for members to debate the profoundly important issues. She delivered an eloquent and blistering speech on the House floor, pointing to the Bush administration's fundamental and catastrophic failures in managing the Katrina disaster.

"It was unable to meet its most basic responsibility, and the ultimate reason for its own existence: the defense of life within its own borders," Slaughter said.

And the congresswoman also burst the bogus bubble Karl Rove created that George W. Bush is our "great protector" -- a claim enough fools bought to give "His Ineptness" another term.

Slaughter minced no words. "Ours is a government which justified its hold on power by warning that only this administration's leaders could keep us safe. But the administration wasn't up to the task."

Bush laughably has named himself to investigate "what went right and what went wrong." Republican congressional leaders -- fearing any outside scrutiny with an election year approaching -- will do their own probe. Barbour will probably be the first to testify.

Lord Halliburton has been out fact-spinning and looking for business opportunities for his old company, which already has grabbed no-bid federal contracts for rebuilding in the disaster area. One brave man had the nerve to shout out at the veep during a photo-op, "Go f--k yourself, Mr. Cheney." Ironically, those were the very same words Cheney used on the floor of the U.S. Senate toward Sen. Patrick Leahy, who questioned Cheney's continuing compensation from Halliburton.

As with the endless mess in Iraq, the tragedy of Katrina brings home a truth long recognized by some of us and now understood by many more: George W. Bush is way over his head and his incompetence is dangerous and damages our national security.

"All Americans who voted for Bush, and those in Congress and the mainstream media who have placed confidence in his leadership, should remember this fact: The signs were there all along that this man didn't have the mental acumen or depth needed to lead the country," Carla Binion wrote on The Smirking Chimp, a spirited Bush-bashing blog.

The disastrous management of the disaster underscores another great truth: George W. Bush is a horrible manager, incapable of handling all matters great and small. He thinks in absolutes and believes he's infallible. His decisions are not fact-based, but visceral. He is arrogant, inattentive, incurious, impatient and intellectually lazy. He surrounds himself with people who tell him just what he wants to hear. Bush does not tolerate dissension or contrary views.

Those who dare stray from the Bushevik talking points get the boot. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, knows that very well. When members of Congress asked him, he said Iraq could not be pacified without a massive troop commitment lasting for years. He was forced to retire.

Bush's former chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, said the war in Iraq would cost between $100 and $200 billion. Although that number turns out to be way too low, Lindsey was fired for offering an estimate the Busheviks, for political reasons, claimed was way too high.

Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill got sacked for telling the president more tax cuts for the rich would not help the economy and would hurt middle-class wage-earners and create an unsustainable deficit. Being right means nothing to George W. Bush.

He prefers loyal ass-kissers and cronies like the manifestly unqualified hack, Michael D. Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown was relieved of his Katrina duties, but he still heads FEMA.

George W.'s limitations were apparent long ago to one of his professors at the Harvard Business School. The man who would become our first MBA president would find directing a two-car funeral procession challenging. No reputable organization, seeking anything beyond his family's political influence, would ever hire him.

Bush's own business ventures in the Texas oil fields failed miserably and only money from his daddy's friends rescued them from sure bankruptcy. His share of the Texas Rangers baseball team was a gift, an entitlement from a family crony, thus the value of the team and George W. Bush's "earned" wealth was not the result of any business achievement or entrepreneurial talent but rather the corporate welfare the city of Arlington,Texas, provided the ball club.

When Bush went to Harvard, following an early discharge from his flextime National Guard service, the politically connected frat brat was a poor student, admitted to the prestigious school only because of the affirmative action of his family's influence.

At Harvard, Bush was required to take a first-year course entitled "Environmental Analysis for Management." His professor, Yoshihiro Tsurumi, remembers the youthful product of inherited wealth and privilege as "always very shallow."

Tsurumi told the Harvard Crimson he recalled Bush bragging about his family's pull. "He wasn't bashful about how he was being pushed upward by Dad's connections," the now-retired professor told the paper. "I always remember two groups of students. One is the really good students, not only intelligent, but with leadership qualities, courage. The other is the total opposite, unfortunately to which George belonged."

The professor arranged for his students to view the film of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," a story depicting the plight of poor people caught in the environmental disaster of the 1930s Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, forced to relocate to California.

Tsurumi said Bush dismissed the film as "corny." The man who would be president left a lasting impression. "I vividly remember that he made a comment saying that people are poor because they are lazy."

The business school professor said most of the Harvard students aspired to run a company someday. As he watched and listened to the flippant, young George W. Bush, he once cautioned him, "If you become president of a company someday, may God help your customers and employees."

May God help us all, especially the suffering people in the Gulf Coast and in Iraq. Disastrous George is still on the loose.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Sept. 13 2005