Sunday, 22 April 2007

What they should have said: in the wake of recent attacks

Following the shootings at Virginia Tech (see here)...
Bush apparently pushed politics aside as he became what one reporter dubbed the 'Consoler in Chief', bringing together a scarred nation after a time of tragedy — thus emphasizing the positive aspect of a president whose approval ratings are in the 30%s. Unsurprisingly the mainstream media dared not attack the president for mourning with his nation, just as it didn't after 9/11. It would make the look bad, and the president, with the upper hand, would attack them back, thus making public perception of the (not so) 'liberal media' even worse. However, in 9/11's case the president did indeed exploit a tragedy for his own political gain. Bush told the mourners at Virginia Tech, "people all over this country are thinking about you, and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected."

Funny how he got to the college promptly, whereas his visit to New Orleans after the disastrous Hurricane Katrina hit was very delayed. Yes the shootings were a horrible act, but didn't Katrina cause much more damage, especially under Bush's incompetent watch? I guess he would have no place to address the mourners in the wake of Katrina; the city of New Orleans was virtually destroyed.

In my world Bush would have, instead of just drowning the mourners with sympathy and partaking in soft politics, used this event to emphasize the need for gun control and a society that helps its members, especially those needing help the most (e.g. the mentally ill). He would not need to exploit the Virginia Tech massacre to be able to use it as an example of a fusion of society failing its peers and, more notably, the all-to-easiness in acquiring a firearm. Instead of saying the shootings were unimaginable, and that one cannot grasp with why or how a human could perform such a heinous act, Bush could bring attention to the need for families, friends, and authorities to see warning signs in troubled behavior — which had been true in the shooter's (Cho Seung-Hui) case.

Most importantly — and at least — Bush could have said that it was a time for unity and reflection upon our society and governmental policies instead of just playing the sympathy card and mentioning 'God' a few times.

In the White House press briefing following the shootings, the cautious statements Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino (Press Secretary Tony Snow is being treated for cancer) provided a great example of this administration's stubbornness on gun control. Even before she was asked about 'gun rights', Perino brought them up.

In my world there would be no objection to gun control, but that's not the case here. At the very least Perino could have stonewalled in a different manner by saying it was 'not right to exploit this tragedy with a hot-button political issue'. Knowing how the press corps seem to operate following a national tragedy, they probably wouldn't object. Even if they did, Perino would end up looking better than she did.

If you're going to exploit a tragedy, why not do it for the better? If not, just don't exploit it at all.

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