Holiday travel and associated fatigue, a slight cold, and a mental numbness caused by the images from the Indian Ocean have conspired to delay postings on this blog. Words, especially written words, often fail when confronted with events. Silence and pre-language thoughts from the older parts of our brains sometimes better capture the moment and bring us closer to the truth. What finally triggers feeble attempts to express ourselves using language is often small, trifling to the moment. Such a moment for me occurred last night listening to David Brooks on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Mr. Brooks, who writes editorials for the New York Times, reassured us that the reason our President took so long to make an appropriate public response to the disaster in countries affected by the tsunami was that that he, and his staff, was on vacation. He was on vacation.
If the event itself were not so utterly awful, the pain and suffering so deep and wide, it might be appropriate to string together some semi-humorous comments along familiar lines about our President's character, work habits, or his official representation of our country to the rest of the world. Or it might be time to call out those who make excuses for him. But there is nothing clever to say. This time it is so not funny.
I was appalled from the first moment I heard of our initial aid response. My heart sunk as I realized that even after four years in office the man still does not understand what it takes to be the leader of the world's only superpower. Now that he - and we - have been shamed into taking a substantial public role in the aid to the victims of the largest international natural disaster in recent memory both the White House and their apologists in the media have started the process of spinning events, rewriting history.
It may be petty on my part to focus only on one individual. There are so many characters in this tragedy, so many interesting threads to follow. But last night David Brooks seemed to me to represent how far we have fallen as a people. Here was a man with a first-rate brain publicly putting it to a third-rate purpose. It was almost as painful for me to watch as the reports from the Indian Ocean.
If Mr. Brooks actually worked for the White House his comments would be understandable, if still not honorable. But he works for a newspaper, arguably our greatest newspaper. He has a long successful career in journalism. But somewhere along the way he must have decided that events can (or should) only be reported to the rest of us from within the framework of an ideology. And events that do not later reflect well on that ideology, or those who give it form, must be retold in different light.
Our country's slow and initially inadequate response to this terrible tragedy was clear from the start, to the rest of the world and even to unnamed others at the New York Times. It was a mistake of judgment by our President and his advisors that I am certain they now regret. Not to acknowledge that fact is the first step toward making the same mistake again. Given our President's well-document inability to remember his mistakes it is up to the rest of us to remind him. Unfortunately Mr. Brooks invited us last night to give the President a pass. After all, he was on vacation.