Wednesday, November 02, 2005


All this bullshit today about what was in Bush's pockets. The press made a big deal about no cell phone, no this or that and that all his needs are met by his aides. He wears a Timex with a W on it... blah blah blah My questions is....WHERE THE FUCK IS THAT OFFICERS BADGE GIVEN TO BUSH BY THAT HEROES MOTHER, THE ONE HE WENT ON ABOUT IN THE STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH AFTER 911????
Jimmy Breslin on the Bush Speechtaken from TruthoutSeptember 23, 2001
I was going along with George Bush the Younger's speech the other night, marveling at his sudden command of the moment, even while knowing that somebody had written the speech for him. Then he did something that caused my memory to jump. That was the moment when he held out the badge of George Howard, a Port Authority cop from Hicksville who died in the catastrophe. The cop's mother, Arlene, had given Bush the badge.
Bush said, "Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever. And I will carry this. ... It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end."
He held Howard's badge up in the palm of his hand.
And I was back on a cool October day in 1988 in Christ the King High School on Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village and George Bush the Elder was on the stage holding up officer Edward Byrne's badge. Byrne had been killed in Jamaica. Byrne's father had given Bush the son's badge. Bush was running for president against Michael Dukakis.
"Dukakis wouldn't understand the grief of a dead cop's mother," he said. "This helps define the man I'm running against. He doesn't understand police. I do."
He used the badge to inflame an auditorium that was crowded with high school girls, who got up on their seats and shrieked, "Death Penalty! Death Penalty! Capital Punishment."
It was the most embarrassing afternoon that the Catholics have had around here.
Now here was George Bush the Younger, like the father before him, holding up the badge of another dead cop. I would have to bet that Bush the Younger remembered it and dug up the badge the other night. I didn't like it. I detested the cheap move when Bush the Elder made it first at Christ the King, and I detested it the other night when Bush the Younger departed from his valid attempt at loftiness in time of high danger and reverted to the cheap know-nothing who had brayed that he wanted this bin Laden dead or alive.
Just in the hours before the speech, he was talking someplace in Washington and he stumbled and mispronounced and mangled his own tongue. Lord, this is the dumbest we've ever had, you thought. Then at night, with a speech written for him and rehearsed for long hours and that he read from a prompter, he was comforting and nearly inspiring.
Still, the speech was more about money than dead Americans. At times, it sounded as if the nation had its wallet stolen instead of being bombed. Efforts to be compared to Winston Churchill were like a series of insults. It was as if Churchill had told the world that Britain would fight on the trading floors and bank vaults and portfolios.
Not once did the people who wrote the speech have Bush mention that this was the greatest security lapse in the nation's history. Blame the airlines and insurance companies who for years bribed senators in Washington to keep regulations off, while they hired security people from outside companies, and at McDonald's pay. Those security people at your airline get $5.15 an hour with no medical coverage or vacation. Then you wonder how foreign murderers can get on planes. Now, more than 6,500 dead and missing later, they are going to put the security where it should be, under the federal government.
Simultaneously, the limits of freedom cannot be curtailed by the whim of security. Suddenly yesterday, a fence grew from the park in the middle of Union Square, where people gathered for peace marches during the week. The fence was a dangerous attack on freedom Bush so often mentioned on Thursday night.
It contributed to the sadness that rose when Bush immoderately held the cop's badge up on Thursday night. On television, one of these people billed as truly brilliant observers, Douglas Brinkley, a historian, said the badge was a great gesture by Bush because it brought him so close to people, or whatever. It was obvious that he didn't know the history of the held-up badge.
Waving a badge seems like a small complaint about politicians, even on those best days, giving in slightly to the temptations of their trade and starting to lie. What harm is there to holding up a cop's badge, even when contrived? Maybe a lot.
You might go back to the night in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson said the North Vietnamese torpedo boats had just attacked U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin and tried to blow them all up, and because they did such a dastardly thing - they even put a bullet hole in the American flag! - he needed a resolution from the Senate and House to allow him to retaliate against these people.
There was nobody dead in the Gulf of Tonkin. Perhaps nobody shot with more than small arms at the destroyer and the flag. That's if they shot at all. But the resolution led to a war that left more than 50,000 American soldiers dead and maybe a million Vietnamese troops and civilians.
And in using the badge of a dead cop the other night, Bush was playing to an emotional America when all strength in words should come from understatement.
Once, during the Cuban missile crisis, a columnist on my newspaper, Walter Lippmann, said, "The American people want the thrill of the invasion headlines without having to read the casualty list on the following days." The trouble this time is that we have had the casualty lists and now wouldn't mind seeing the headlines about an invasion, or whatever will pass for an invasion this time.
The cop's badge and the fraud lines, slipped into a speech at such a time, were dangerous and heedless. At a time when you need every single solitary person, somebody with a memory thinks he's being had and loses confidence. That could have happened the other night.
Copyright © 2001, Newsday, Inc.


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