A Very, Very Good Idea

Ben Marble, a Gulfport resident who says he’s a doctor, had the guts to wade into Vice President Dick Cheney’s carefully-staged photo op Thursday and say what many residents of the Gulf Coast wanted to say to the politicians who sat on their butts while the people of Mississippi and Louisiana lay dead and dying.

“Go fuck yourself Mr. Cheney,” Marble screamed just off camera as the event played out live on CNN. “Go fuck yourself you asshole!”

Secret Service agents subdued Marble and CNN yanked the video off its web site but copies of it float around the Internet and Marble, who’s homeless after Katrina destroyed his Gulfport home, is offering a copy for sale on EBay.

Republicans, of course, jumped in with carefully-crafted indignation over Marble’s “inappropriate remarks” to Cheney, forgetting the Vice President used the same words to tell off a Senator just last year.

Cheney offered his outburst of obscenity because that Senator had the gall to question his relationship with scandal-scarred Halliburton, the company he used to run and that’s now ripping off taxpayers in Iraq. All Marble had to be upset about was loss of his home, death of close friends and family and destruction of the city he loved.

Yet Marble, who also plays with punk rock bands in the Gulfport area, could become the symbol of frustration felt not only by residents of the hard hit area but every American who recoils in shock and anger at the government’s lackluster and uncompassionate response to the horror, death and destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard cried without shame on national television this week, saying the federal “bureaucracy has committed murder here in the Greater New Orleans area.”

Newscasters abandoned their traditionally-stoic on screen personas and openly challenged attempts by politicians to spin the event.

“Oh come on Senator, let’s forget the hype and talk about the people dying here in the streets,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said to Senator Mary Landrieu after she recited a canned political speech about “how proud I am of the way Congress has responded to this tragedy.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert could not conceal his anger when he opened an interview with incompetent Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff with a curt “are you, or anybody who reports to you, considering resignation?”

Even those who make their living coming up with excuses for Bush couldn’t keep a straight face. When Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly offered the usual administration spin, pseudo-journalist Geraldo Rivera shot back with: “This is Dante’s Inferno, Bill. There is no way to sugarcoat it. This is the worst thing I’ve seen in a civilized nation.”

And it is. The debacle is a monumental failure of government at all levels, an inability to serve the citizens when that service is most needed.

Even right-wing Republican firebrand Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who masterminded the GOP takeover of Congress, recognizes this in memos he recently sent to fellow party members.

“For the last week the federal government and its state and local counterparts have consistently been behind the curve,” Gingrich said in a tartly-worded missive to Republicans. “The American people overwhelmingly know that the current situation is totally unacceptable. It is a mistake to get trapped into defending the systems and processes which clearly failed.”

Gingrich suggests it is time to stop the useless argument about “values” in government and politics and realize that those elected to serve the people are in the business of delivering services to the people.

“We’re not in a values fight now but over whether the system is working,” Gingrich told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “The issue is delivery.”

When it came time to deliver to the hundreds of thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina, government failed.

And when our government fails to deliver, it should, as Dr. Ben Marble so aptly suggested to Vice President Dick Cheney, prove it can also fail at the difficult anatomical act of self-intercourse.