Red & Dead...Enough Said

Trey Smith

On Monday, March 21, 2005, a terrible tragedy played out in Red Lake, Minnesota. Ten people were dead, with more injured, as the result of yet another school shooting. So how did US President George W. Bush react to this senseless loss of life?

On the day OF the shooting, he made NO public comment. Ditto for the day after. Ditto for the next 3 days as well. In fact, the president didn't get around to make any comments on the shooting until Saturday, March 26, during his weekly radio address.

Five days of silence!

As the leader of the United States of America, the president is supposed to represent the hearts and prayers of the citizens. In most cases, when some type of tragedy occurs, past presidents have tended to be quick to offer condolences and sympathy. After the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, then-President Bill Clinton didn't wait the better part of a week to express public sorrow.

Ironically enough, then Texas Governor George W. Bush issued a statement of condolence within 24 hours of the Columbine shootings. He said,

"My heart is broken...What's so tragic is not only the loss of life but the fact that there are people in our society who disregard human life to the point where they will act out their fantasies and aggressions with weaponry."

"I wish we could legislate love ... I think it's important for mothers and dads to understand that the most important job they'll ever have is raising a child to respect others. Love happens at home."

So why is it that Gov. George W. Bush would be quick to offer sympathy for one tragic school shooting while Pres. George W. Bush would be so slow in a similar case?

One answer is that, in 1999, Dubya was RUNNING for President and he didn't want to be the ONLY candidate not to issue a statement. It certainly wouldn't have played well for a man portraying himself as a "compassionate conservative".

However, the most obvious and troubling explanation has a lot more to do with ethnicity. The students at Columbine High School are predominantly white and from well-to-do families. The students at Red Lake High School are American Indians who live on a reservation beset with grinding poverty and high unemployment.

The parents of Columbine students hail from a "Red" state and might well be counted on to vote for then-candidate Dubya in his quest for the presidency. The parents of Red Lake students come from "Blue" state Minnesota and, besides, Mr. Bush is none too popular with most Indian communities.

I realize that things are never so simple as they appear. There are probably a few variables that factor into this situation that I don't know about. Still, when you consider how much concern and empathy Dubya has expressed in the case of Terri Schiavo -- even cutting short his vacation to get back to the nation's capitol to sign a bill -- his 5 day silence regarding the Red Lake shooting is not only inexcusable but embarrassing and shameful!

  • Jon (unverified)

    In related news, as the Terri Schiavo tragedy continues, we've learned that most Americans believe that these complex, deeply private end-of-life decisions should be made by families, not the government.

    What we've also learned that is that one of the Americans who apparently feels that way is none other than Tom Delay. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 1988, Mr. Delay's own family chose to end life support for their 65 year old father, severely injured in a tragic accident:

    "There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way he (Charles) wanted to live like that. Tom knew, we all knew, his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way." Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay. When the man's kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine. "Extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated," said his medical report, citing "agreement with the family's wishes." His bedside chart carried the instruction: "Do Not Resuscitate." On Dec. 14, 1988, the senior DeLay "expired with his family in attendance." (Source: LA Times, 3/26/05)

    In a further irony for the tort reform crusader Delay, his family filed a product liability lawsuit and later received a $250,000 settlement.

    In 1988 and beyond, the Delay family suffered a terrible tragedy, one which should elicit only our sympathy, not our judgment. Surely all Americans can respect their pain, their preferences - and their privacy.

  • Federalist (unverified)

    So George W. didn't dance in the blood of the dead to your satisfaction, and that makes him bad. He didn't federalize a mass murder, or mug for cameras like his predecessor, Mr. FeelYourPain. And that's bad?

    Admit it, you'd criticize anything he did. Nothing he did or said would satisfy you.


  • Trey (unverified)

    With all due respect to Federalist1, I EXPECT any US President to offer public sympathy to ANY and ALL people who suffer from a horrific tragedy.

    It's just the decent and proper thing to do.

  • Drew (unverified)

    The GW camp's contempt for the American people isn't racially motivated. It's just that they don't care about anyone under a certain income bracket. Sure, public opinion can be problematic, but it's easily molded, especially if your constituency is a bunch of professionally ignorant Churchies. Machine politics doesn't really need poor people- red, or otherwise.

    Anway, a lame condolence press release doesn't resolve a public ed institution that appears to create motive and opportunity for mass shootings.

    As for Terry Shiavo, this is something people in America have to decide every day- and it's private. Hubby has power of attorney? In a sane country, that would be it. Here, it's a right to life circus. It's also an attempt by the GOP to distract us. "There's no war, have this dying woman!" You watch, next it will be a baby in a well.

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