I'm St. Bernard Parish resident and Hurricane Katrina survivor Rockey Vaccarella and I'm towing a FEMA trailer to Washington D.C. on August 18, 2006 in hopes of having dinner with President Bush. I rode out Hurricane Katrina on my roof by holding on to a rope for four hours in one of the most devastated areas of the New Orleans region. I eventually swam to safety then got in a boat to help rescue others. Now I'm on a mission to find people like myself who’ve lost everything but want to go home. People that want to rebuild and refuse to give up. My mission will take me all the way to the White House where I will deliver a simple yet powerful message:
“We want to thank President Bush and the American people for everything they have done so far for south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region but, to remind everyone that the job is not complete and to please do whatever is possible to help clean-up and re-build so our people can return home.”
In fact, a lot of people seemed to have made that assumption -- "That's some good shit. When you make it there kick Bush in the ass one good time for taking so long. lol. Eye Of The Tiger," writes one commenter. "Go Rockey! Good luck and I"m glad someone is doing something about our parish!!!! Thanks!!," writes another. "Go Rockey Go!!! Get the word out and let the rest of the country know what's going on down there," writes still another.
So Rockey hooks up his FEMA trailer (which is basically theft of federal property, BTW) and heads off to DC to bring his message to the President. He's going to wind up camping out in that trailer like Cindy Sheehan while Bush ignores him, right?
Well, let's go to the White House website.
THE PRESIDENT: It's an amazing country, isn't it, where --
MR. VACCARELLA: It is. You know, it's really amazing when a small man like me from St. Bernard Parish can meet the President of the United States. The President is a people person. I knew that from the beginning. I was confident that I could meet President Bush.
And my mission was very simple. I wanted to thank President Bush for the millions of FEMA trailers that were brought down there. They gave roofs over people's head. People had the chance to have baths, air condition. We have TV, we have toiletry, we have things that are necessities that we can live upon.
But now, I wanted to remind the President that the job's not done, and he knows that. And I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us. And I just wish the President could have another term in Washington.
PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. (Laughter.)
MR. VACCARELLA: You know, I wish you had another four years, man. If we had this President for another four years, I think we'd be great. But we're going to move on.
Mr. President, it's been my pleasure.
THE PRESIDENT: You're a good man, Rockey. Thank you all.
MR. VACCARELLA: You are, too. Thanks a bunch.
Boy, Rockey really gave ol' Bush an earful, didn't he? I wonder how many of Rockey's MySpace friends envisioned a kiss-ass session?
Turns out that Rockey isn't really just some fella from the Gulf Coast who decided to go visit the president. He's a GOP shill. From Attytood:
...Turns out that the earthy Vaccarella -- a highly successful businessman in the fast-food industry -- is indeed a Republican pol, having run unsuccessfully under the GOP banner for a seat on the St. Bernard Parish commission back in 1999. We don't have a good link, but here (via Nexis) is part of his bio that ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Oct. 15, 1999:
35. Born in New Orleans. Grew up in Arabi and Chalmette. Lived 11 years in
Married, two children.
Graduated from Chalmette High, 1982. Attended St. Bernard Community
Director of operations, Lundy Enterprises, as manager of 31 Pizza Hut
restaurants and 450 employees. Former general restaurant manager of Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits on East Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette.
What's happening here is that Bush's downslide in the polls began with Katrina -- actually, he began slipping with Cindy Sheehan's vigil in Crawford, but crashed with the aftermath of the hurricane.
What Bush and the GOP definitely don't need is people remembering the first anniversary of Katrina accurately. According to the L.A. Times:
The White House announced Bush's visit [to the Gulf Coast] Tuesday as a phalanx of administration officials stood before reporters to argue that billions of dollars had flowed to the region and millions more was on the way. The plans for the trip were disclosed one day after Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales announced that he was sending additional lawyers and resources to the city to fight fraud and abuse.
At Tuesday's briefing, White House aides passed out folders and fact sheets that painted a picture of aggressive recovery efforts. A packet from the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the levees that were breached after the storm, carried the slogan: "One Team: Relevant, Ready, Responsible, Reliable."
I don't know about you, but I think that the fact that the first word in their slogan/argument is 'relevant' is really funny. They know that the dems are going to remind people about Katrina going into September and the media is going to do the same. The one year anniversary can't possibly go by without note.
"The White House effort comes as the Democrats, who plan to challenge Republicans on national security in this year's midterm election campaign, are portraying the government's response to Katrina as evidence that Bush failed to fix inadequacies exposed by the Sept. 11 attacks," the L.A. Times tells us, "A report being released today by top Democrats, titled 'Broken Promises: The Republican Response to Katrina,' features a picture of Bush during his Sept. 15, 2005, speech in New Orleans' Jackson Square, in which he promised to oversee 'one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.'"
It's a damned decent argument. If we had a catastrophic terrorist attack, wouldn't the results be similar to a catastrophic natural disaster? By being shown as unprepared for one, the Bush administration was exposed as being unprepared for either -- despite the fact that they'd just spent the previous year convincing us that a terrorist attack was a very real possibility. Clearly, they'd done absolutely no planning for an event they'd used to scare everyone into voting for republicans.
In other words, they talked a good game.
So now, we have what we always get -- Potemkin villages. Rockey Vaccarella comes up to DC to kiss Bush's ass and tell everyone what a great job he's doing. PR and photo-ops don't fix problems, they fix perceptions.
And that's pretty much the only thing these guys are good at.
Technorati tags: politics; Bush; republicans; Rockey Vaccarella is the first shot in a propaganda campaign recasting Katrina as a victory for the '06 elections