Dear Big Daddy,
The fires are mostly out. At the risk of being cynical, who are the political winners and losers–and what else did we learn?
–Singed in San Diego
Dear Embers of Escondido,
In this business, cynical is a risk you should always take. But to avoid starting out with bitter partisanship, let's begin with something we can all agree on: arsonists came out of this one looking pretty bad. None of us are probably going out of our way these days to donate money to their anti-defamation league or hire them as birthday party clowns. Yep, we're all on the same page there. Kumbaya.
Unless, of course, we're all arsonists. Many enviros would have you believe these fires are a particularly glaring example of warm globally, burn locally. Though they might want to be a little careful with that line of reasoning. Plug it into the conventional wisdom filter and it's liable to come out "Better cut the trees down now!" Pretty soon some think tank will be telling us if we only add more carbon to the atmosphere, we'll achieve an equilibrium where rising sea levels put out the forest fires. Kumbaya.
Many of our state pols went into full on "Jesus is Coming" mode (ya know, lookin' busy). But let's be honest. Disaster time is Arnold time. Be it a cyborg-induced apocalypse or his 2005 special election, has anyone ever looked better surrounded by charred ruins? Is it any coincidence a Field Poll just found he'd beat out Barbara Boxer for her Senate seat? If he ever gets caught doing anything particularly naughty, I expect Arnie to deliver his media apology while dressed in suit made of rubble and cinders–and against our better judgment, we will forgive him and then pass constitution amendment allowing him to be Superpresident.
The big news, though, is that the Bush administration nearly pulled off a rare road win. Dubya and FEMA were here in a reasonable amount of time, said all the right things and may have even done some good on the ground. FEMA was so eager to help they even provided fake reporters for their own news conference, probably after making the not-unreasonable assumption that every reporter in California had been laid off already. I swear, sometimes it seems like these folks carry around their own banana peel. At least they didn't get their faux newsies from a male escort service.
And where was Michael Brown? I think I read somewhere that locals owned 300,000 horses in just one of the counties that burned. That's an evacuation effort where the former head of the Arabian Horse Association could actually lend some expertise. If these fires had happened before Hurricane Katrina, we might think Brownie was an inspired, out-of-the box choice. Right man, wrong disaster.
Still, it probably surprised a lot of folks to see Bush here at all. After all, satirical Bush paraphernalia is our biggest industry after nerd stuff, wacky weed and amonds. But because it would indicate Dubya may have learned from past mistakes–something he's on record as being against.
Let's just say that celebrities have their uses, and not just Paris Hilton when she's tipsy. Enviros love to talk about how the average American consumes as many resources as 20 Chinese or 30 Indians. These equations work in other ways as well. In terms of how much the media cares, the possibility of Sting's house burning down is the rough equivalent of, say, a meteor destroying Bangladesh.
In other words, combine fame, great wealth and a few GOP districts, and Bush had no choice but to respond. Forget levees–what New Orleans really needs is a protective ring of movie studios and software companies.
And in case their publicists are reading (and I know they're not), I just thought of a way to rehab the reputations of the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Their train-wreck lives aren't just mindless fodder for the might-as-well-be illiterate. By keeping the public eye squarely on the more flammable parts of the Golden State, they'll make sure our disasters can never be ignored. They're not just forgetting their panties and puking in the shrubbery