It’s a sad day

when Trent Lott has his eye on the ball and the president doesn’t:

6:39 P.M. – JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Senator Trent Lott is urging President Bush to visit Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, telling the president — quote — “the people of Mississippi are flat on their backs. They’re going to need your help.”

Look, for all the bullshitting around that we do, for all the joking about the president and his people and the stunts they pull, there’s a reason we get so damn angry. It’s that we need our leaders to lead. We need people, strong people, to look to in a time of crisis, who will say I am here to help you, I am in this with you, follow me and I’ll take you to safe ground.

It is not naive to want to believe that when the world is burning down and going under around you, the people you elected will rise to the occasion. Even if they never seemed the type before, you want to believe that when the house is on fire, they’ll run inside to save you, they’ll dial 911, they’ll grab the hose, they’ll cover you with a blanket.

I would have forgiven much of George W. Bush if he had caught Osama bin Laden in the two years after 9/11, instead of diverting us off into Iraq. I would have overlooked a great deal and been admiring of him if he had walked down the road in Crawford the first day Cindy Sheehan set up camp, and talked with her, and then talked with all of us, about his mistakes and how he planned to correct them. There have been moments in this country’s history, when a man stands up and overcomes the expectations of others. I had been willing to allow that there may have been a moment like that for this president. Until now.

A city goes under. A pundit makes jokes. A president rides his bike, plays a round of golf.

Until someone finally points out to him that it looks bad, and then he puts away his ball and goes inside. Pretends to study, pretends to know what it all means.

What matters isn’t that he’s back on the job now. What matters is that while the house was smoldering, starting to burn, he was two blocks over, telling everyone they were delusional for smelling smoke.