Those of you living in New York in the summer of 1999 may remember a heat wave, which induced brownout in upper Manhattan, leaving a couple hundred thousand people without power in the middle of the night. It was hot. Brutally hot. As a teacher friend of mine would say, “It was like being in a mouth.” About 100 degrees and 95 percent humidity. All fans and air conditioners went out. We sat on the fire escape of my apartment and did the only thing we could: we drank the six beers we had while they were still cold.
But this isn’t about me. I’m illustrating a point about leadership. During the Great Manhattan Brownout of 1999, NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, got out of bed at midnight and was down on the front lines with police and fire officials getting things done. He went to the command station at 181st and Broadway, in the heart of Washington Heights (where the majority of the residents are black and Hispanic). In Washington Heights, Rudy exposed himself to a less-than-ideal situation, and potential criticism from some of the minority groups in the city, many of whom were indirectly affected by some of his “police state” policies as mayor. And who can forget Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima, victims of Rudy’s overzealous NYPD. Let’s just say, Rudy at 181st and Broadway probably didn’t feel nearly as safe as he did at Park Avenue and 79th. He was not in the friendliest territory. But he went there nonetheless, because he had a job to do. He needed to lead his city through a difficult time.
While for the most part I don’t agree with his politics, Rudy was a man of action. He believed that a leader is someone who leads in times of crisis, even if doing so puts him in an uncomfortable position.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch … George Bush has decided to watch Hurricane Rita from one of the most secure and non-threatening places imaginable. He’s at the Northern Command in Colorado, roughly 1,000 miles from the storm, while military commanders and other friendlies surround him. He’s practiced for the cameras what appears to be a look of smug concern for the situation in Texas and Louisiana.
From Today’s Associated Press story:
“It comforts me knowing that our federal government is well-organized and well-prepared to deal with Rita,” Bush said. “The first order of business now is search and rescue teams to pull people out of harm’s way.”
The first person pulled out of harm’s way? George Junior himself.
This man is a native of Texas. He was Governor of Texas. Yet he has steered comfortably clear of his home state. Most people, when their home is threatened, will make an effort (or at least make a verbal overture) to save what they can.
Once again, Bush is showing us his true colors. If you’re in need, even if you’re his neighbor, he’ll save himself first.
George Bush does not care about America and its well-being more than he cares about his own. Is that the kind of message you enjoy getting from your elected leader?
I hope we don’t make this mistake again in 2008.