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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vaccarella's Bait and Switch

The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have released a report on the response to Hurricane Katrina one year out. Among the report's findings:

  • Thousands of families are still waiting for FEMA trailers
  • An estimated 11 percent of the $19 billion that has been spent by FEMA -- or $2 billion -- has been waste, fraud and abuse
  • 80 percent of Gulf Coast businesses with approved SBA disaster loans are still waiting to get their loans
  • The Republican Congress didn't enact needed housing money for homeowners in Louisiana until June, 10 months after Katrina - - and the money has still failed to reach these homeowners
  • Only three of the 10 acute-care hospitals in New Orleans have re-opened; the only public hospital, Charity, has still not re-opened
  • Only 56 of 128 public schools in New Orleans are enrolling students this fall

I've written about Rockey Vaccarella before (A Potemkin Protester), but I think that a lot of the people writing about him, mainstream media and blogs alike, are missing the real story on this guy. Yes, he's a shill and GOP operative. Yes, he's a PR gimmick to make Bush look good.

But the whole thing's also a cynical and cruel bait-and-switch exploiting people still waiting for help on the Gulf Coast. Take this story from The Times-Picayune from August 19th:

The idea didn't come to Rockey Vaccarella in those harrowing hours after Hurricane Katrina, when he clung to the rooftop of his flooded Meraux home. It didn't come four days later, when he finally left his native St. Bernard Parish, exhausted and shocked at the near-total devastation that lay before him.

No, the idea came during a fleeting conversation with another frustrated Katrina victim.

"A gentleman said to me, 'You know, somebody ought to take a FEMA trailer and park it on the White House lawn,' " Vaccarella said.

So was born Vaccarella's quest: to pull a trailer to Washington, stopping along the way to raise awareness of the plight of south Louisiana, and maybe, just maybe, share a meal inside the trailer with President Bush.

"I don't like negative," Vaccarella, 41, said. "So I'm not doing it to bash the president or anybody else. Just the opposite: I want to thank him for all he's done -- but tell him please don't forget about us."


"There's so much that needs to be done," he said. "I'm going to tell everybody, 'Hey, you can't just let this whole place go to waste.' "

The Daily Show did a great job of showing what was expected of Rockey and what actually happened. It's almost as depressing as it is funny.

The last time I wrote about Vaccarella, I quoted a few comments from his MySpace profile, but really, just one quote is enough to make my point -- "Go Rockey! Good luck and I"m glad someone is doing something about our parish!!!! Thanks!!"

See what I mean? It's just sad. These people were expecting a Cindy Sheehan and they got a big happy face drawn on the region. One commenter on his profile asks Vaccaraella to kick Bush in the ass -- Rockey kisses his ass.

And, after wishing that Bush could serve another term, Vaccarella went out into the media and slapped the very people who thought they finally had representation. On FOX News, he told Neil Cavuto that people on the Gulf Coast should be grateful and stop complaining (transcript courtesy of Think Progress).

ROCKEY: Well, you know what, like I told many people, I’m an optimistic-type person, I kinda look at the glass half-full instead of half-empty. And one of the things I wanted to thank the President for, part of what we went there for, is for all the FEMA trailers. I mean, here, you can always point the fingers and say shoulda, coulda, woulda, and been a Monday-morning quarterback. But I’m not a Monday-morning quarterback. I have a roof over my head, my family’s living there, we have air conditioning, we have running water, I can take a shower, shave. I can move on as I rebuild. I mean, the President didn’t order the Hurricane Katrina, she just came through with her whipping winds. And instead of, you know, sitting around complaining and saying, “This is what they shoulda did, what they coulda did,” well, you know what? You ought to be thankful for what we got. Hurricane Mitch slammed into the Honduras coast and the people of that country stayed in literally tents for over two and a half years, and were served with trucks going by just feeding them food. At least we were able to have miniature homes parked in front of our house — electricity ran, television, phone line, all of the necessities we need to carry on. I even can get on the internet!

What about those thousands of families still waiting for trailers, Rockey? Screw them, right? Why the hell did someone need to go up to DC to personally meet with the president and tell him everything's fine and people saying otherwise are a bunch of whiners? The people following the story down south were expecting pretty much the opposite.

That's the real story. It's not what a ridiculous and transparent PR campaign this all is. It's about how cynical and cruel and exploitative the whole thing is. Even when the people on the coast think they finally have a high-profile advocate, the whole thing degenerates into just one more photo-op -- proving that Team Bush couldn't give a damn about their problems. They're more interested in their own.

Next time you see a photo of Bush's and Vaccarella's meeting, think about this as a caption, since it's the most accurate way of putting it -- 'Cynical bastard meets cynical bastard'.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, even though this blog is now outdated. I think it isn't any more outdated then the JFK murder.

You are right. It is a disgrace that some idiot would bring a FEMA to the White House(which btw I work on those trailers and THAT isn't a Fema trailer)kissing Bush's butt and praising him like Bush just saved his life. This is typical of the Republicans to stage something like this. It's a disgrace in New Orleans and the pubs are digging their own graves over this nonsense. I'm lovin every second of it.