Mourner In Chief?

While America is struggling with the disbelief and sympathy provoked by the Virginia Tech massacre, some in the media are trying to salve the wounds in a most peculiar way.

Brian Williams of NBC went on air yesterday peddling his view of President Bush as the empathetic vessel for the nation’s grief, saying that Bush…

“has been effective as a mourner-in-chief. He is quite good at it, quite soothing at it.”

I might have excused this delusional analysis had Williams himself been a grief-stricken victim of this crime. But as he is not, it is simply an insensitive misrepresentation of reality.

This is the same Bush that has not attended a single funeral for the 3,200 Americans killed in Iraq. In fact, he prohibits the rest of the country from mourning by forbidding news coverage of funerals or returning caskets even when the families prefer it. And that’s to say nothing of the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Iraqis who lost their lives.

This is the same Bush that took six days to acknowledge the loss of over 1,800 Americans due to Hurricane Katrina. In fact, Bush was celebrating John McCain’s birthday as the levees breached, despite having been warned of the danger. In his first stumbling attempts at consolation, he praised his incompetent FEMA director and assured victims that they would be cared for and the region would be restored. That was almost two years ago.

This is the same Bush under whose direction the Attorney General mocked the Geneva Convention and justified torture.

This is the same Bush that set records for executions as governor of Texas.

This is the same Bush that ignored warnings from the CIA saying “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” In fact, the warning came while he vacationed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, but he didn’t even consider it necessary to interrupt his recreation to perhaps prevent a massive terrorist attack.

This is the same Bush that smirks when hailing the “haves and haves more” that he refers to as his “base” and scowls while insisting that senior citizens should happily exchange the dependability of Social Security for the vagaries of the stock market; the same Bush that trusts pharmaceutical conglomerates to attend to the interests of patients instead of their bottom line; the same Bush that defiantly rejects the world’s climate experts’ proof of global warming.

He clearly doesn’t expect to be around to console the future victims of his destructive and short-sighted policies. And he has certainly not been there for the victims of the past. Even his signature issue, which he exploits endlessly, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, demonstrates a callousness that is revolting. When informed that the nation was under attack, he sat paralyzed before a group of school children, unable respond. When he eventually did respond, it was to stand atop a pile of rubble (that likely contained human remains) and issue empty threats to the perpetrators. He did not use that “megaphone moment” to bring comfort to a stunned nation. He used it to display a bravado that he knew he would not have to back up personally. And it should be noted that he did not even apprehend “the people who knocked down these buildings,” as he pompously promised.

Brian Williams’ depiction of Bush as “quite soothing” can only be described as a severe hallucination. Bush is the last person I would turn to for solace in a time of grief. And the only plausible context for designating him “mourner-in-chief,” would be because he is such a productive supplier of the world’s death and misery.

Update: Ann Compton of ABC News has also joined the chorus saying:

“When the nation mourns, the president kind of has to be the mourner in chief.”


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