Did He Really Say That?!?

by Steve, June 21st, 2007

Did President George W. Bush really invite New Orleans musicians Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers to play at the White House, call them mediocre and then ask them to pick up the trash?

Yep, it’s true, and it’s in the official transcript. Sure, he was just being his frat-boy self, ribbing the boys. But isn’t that a bit much after, uh, that hurricane thing that happened a couple years back?

THE PRESIDENT: …I thank Tony Snow and his bunch of, well, mediocre musicians — (laughter) — no, great musicians. Beats Workin, thanks for coming. (Applause.) Kermit, come up here. Kermit, we’re proud to have you.

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We’re glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you’re here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it’s over. (Laughter.)

(Via Dan Froomkin via Wonkette)

12 Responses to “Did He Really Say That?!?”

  1. Comment from Robin:


  2. Comment from Matt:

    I’ve got to be honest…I don’t see reason for outrage (or even annoyance) at these comments. I guess you can say that his jokes weren’t funny, but they were obviously (even from a transcript) delivered in good humor. If you’d like to critique his wording (obviously not his strong suit) or comedic timing; fine, but can’t a guy just tell a joke? As to Katrina requiring that he temper his comments nearly 2 years later, unless you believe he caused it, I don’t see the correlation.
    Either way, I do like the previous comment. “As shat” is almost as funny as the intended pronunciation.

  3. Comment from ben:

    Granted, Bush’s characteristic back-handed, wishy-washy insult of Ruffins isn’t anywhere near as offensive as was his back-handed, wishy-washy pretension of being a leader during the acute phase of the Katrina disaster (a disaster which continues, by the way — it’s not over), yet it is nevertheless another reminder of just how much he loathes anything he is unfamiliar with, and therefore threatened by. It’s his alacrity for openly sharing this disdain of his that I’ve always found most disarming; the fact that he is so insecure and intimidated by those who would be his cultural and intellectual superior, well… I can walk into any corner tavern and find such a representative. Buy lately I’ve been wondering: For whom does Bush reserve his greatest contempt — those of us who “get the joke” and actually “see the correlation”, or those of us naïve enough to believe that all he is doing is “telling a joke”?

  4. Comment from Matt:

    Wow, Ben. I can almost see your bulging, pulsating forehead vain ready to burst as you feverishly conclude your diatribe with air quotes. Ok…maybe I’m just imagining you that way because of the obvious Bush derangement syndrome.

    When you say that this reminds you of Bush’s loathing for the unfamiliar, are you speaking from personal experience? Have you actually SEEN him loath the unfamiliar? Rhetorical questions aside, I really do want to understand from where you gleaned this knowledge. To be honest, my impression is that you are upset about election 2000 and the war and thus the object of YOUR loathing becomes the personification of all evil. I realize that a comment section isn’t conducive to lengthy explanations, but really do like to try to understand the basis for your disagreements. I prefer clarity to agreement (I stole that line, but it sums up my point).

    In regards to Katrina, the “correlation” that I don’t see is why someone who happens to be from New Orleans must be treated like they are fragile simply because their hometown suffered a disaster. This isn’t done with people from Pass Christian, MS or other places that were hit. Do people refrain from pointing out that the Yankee’s suck this year in respect for September 11th or that Kansas is flat because they had a big tornado? I guess I just give people more credit than that.

    Ben, though we obviously disagree, I do enjoy reading your comments as they are always well written. Do you have a blog yourself (as opposed to himself) where I could read more of your commentary?

  5. Comment from Himself:

    Matt, you’ve got Ben all wrong. I know Ben. Ben is a friend of mine. And I can assure you he’s one of the more mellow fellows you could meet. There were no veins bulging when he wrote that.

    Matt pretty well sums up the right’s defense of Bush: If you criticize him, you’re just picking on an easy target. Just because he’s an inarticulate boob doesn’t mean he’s wrong! Furthermore, if you don’t like his failed policies, you must just be bitter about the judicial coup in 2000. We’re all just Bush haters, you see?

    But obviously this “defense” of Bush is no such thing. It’s pathetic, really. Is anybody besides John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Bush and Cheney themselves still thinking invading Iraq was a good idea? Will Bush leave any legacy besides Iraq? He’s utterly failed at every domestic and foreign policy initiative. Is it hatred to point that out? I think not.

    Bush did not cause the hurricane called Katrina. But he is responsible — by inaction, indifference and incompetence — for the disaster called Katrina. Destruction of an American city on this scale is unprecedented. It could have been prevented, and the human toll could have been lessened. It is a perfect example of what happens when you put people in charge of government who don’t believe government can or should work. The fact that it happened to a black city seems to be lost on white America. (By the way, if you haven’t seen Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, put it on your Netflix list right now.)

    Now listen, there’s just one more thing that I shouldn’t have to tell anybody in the United States. There are certain things you don’t say to a black man. You don’t call him boy. You don’t express surprise at how “clean” or articulate he is. You don’t ask to touch his hair. And you sure as hell don’t ask him — even jokingly — to clean up after the party.

    You don’t have to have personal experience with the man to know that George W. Bush is one of the most insolent, insular, ignorant and incurious presidents we have ever had. I’m indignant! (No veins bulging here, gang, just stating the facts.)

  6. Comment from Matt:

    Since you do know Ben I’ll allow you to make the call on the status of his forehead vain. I was trying to concede that I was probably wrongly assuming things about him based on my self-acknowledged bias.

    The disaster of Katrina was a failure of government, but it was as much the local government as that for which Bush was responsible. In the same way that it is local police not the FBI that are considered first responders, the initial failures lay with those whose responsibility it was to directly serve their electorate. Unlike most coastal cities, the government in New Orleans opted to allow growth into an area that was significantly below sea level. Then they further decided not to utilize the money allocated for levee improvements for that purpose. What about the parking lots full of functional school buses that weren’t utilized to evacuate those who desired to leave? None of these are failures of the Bush administration. I would contend that that they are symptoms of the general problem of government’s inability to creatively anticipate unique disasters; both local and federal. It happened at Pearl Harbor, on September 11th and with Katrina.

    About what you can and cannot say to a Black man, I really am torn. On principle, like MLK Jr. I don’t think that people should be treated differently because of the color of their skin. That means that the President or anyone else can tell me (as an obvious Anglo) or a person of any other ethnicity that we are clean and articulate or joke about cleaning up a room. HOWEVER, the historical context for those statements in this nation makes that a bit utopian. I must say that I lean more toward the principle side.

    I’d love to stay and play a little more but I’m off for a few weeks. I may have a little time to say hi tomorrow but if not, I hope you and Ben have a great day. No hard feelings; clarity over agreement.

  7. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    “In regards to Katrina, the ‘correlation’ that I don’t see is why someone who happens to be from New Orleans must be treated like they are fragile…”

    Because they are fragile. Everyone from the region is fragile right now. I have friends and relatives there whose lives have been torn apart by Katrina. No one’s feeling like joking about this besides George Bush. And Matt, apparently.

    The death rate in New Orleans has climbed to fifty percent following the storm. This is no time for Bush to be making shitty jokes about how “mediocre” New Orleanians are, or telling them to pick up their own trash. (And maybe they should clean up New Orleans while they’re at it?)

    Go watch Spike Lee’s four-hour documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” and you’ll see why everyone who experienced Katrina, those from New Orleans and throughout the rest of the region, need to be treated gently. They need federal aid, they need their homes rebuilt, they need their lives rebuilt, they need counseling and love and our support. Not some idiot telling them they’re pieces of shit. Get it?

    We’ve got thousands of U.S. citizens who are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress because of Katrina, many of whom are developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And it’s not so much the storm itself — it’s the aftermath. It’s the way they were ignored.

    It’s the way they saw their neighbors dying. The way they saw their husbands, wives, children and relatives dying and then left for days in the hot, blazing sun.

    Singer Kanye West put it most succinctly: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

  8. Comment from Himself:

    There were failures at all levels of government in response to Katrina. But the biggest and most important failures were of the federal government. The levies around New Orleans are the responsibility of the US Army Corps of Engineers, not the city of New Orleans. And only the federal government had the resources and capability to mobilize and coordinate a response on the scale needed for Katrina. FEMA, under Bush crony Michael “heckuva job” Brown, was slow — deadly slow — to respond, and Bush himself was oblivious to the snow-balling disaster until much too late.

    While local officials share blame, the the lion’s share of responsibility for the human-made disaster named Katrina lies in the hands of the federal government with George W. Bush at the helm.

    Regarding Martin Luther King Jr. and “color blindness”: Dr. King certainly never intended that we should forget that the modern nation states of the western hemisphere were built on 400 years of African slave labor. Blacks have been free in Anglo-American society for far fewer generations than they were enslaved.

    Kanye West could have gone a few steps further. White Americans don’t care about black people. (And don’t you dare call me an “America hater” for pointing this out!)

  9. Comment from Matt:

    It’s too bad I only have a second today to get into it with you guys.

    Can I start out by saying that despite our obvious differences, everyone with whom I have had exchanges on this site has been passionate while maintaining civility? I enjoy hearing your opinions.

    I believe that my last comment conceded that mistakes were made on ALL levels with my main point being that the human tragedy could have been lessened by better local preparation and administration. I believe at the time of Katrina, FEMA employed all of 3000 people nationwide. It shouldn’t be surprising that this was insufficient for the task. Yes, the Corps of Engineers was a major part of levee renovation under SELA with a budget of about ¾ billion dollars over 10 years, but I was referring to the Orleans Levee Board which was directly and specifically responsible for the protection of New Orleans through its levees and floodgates and the state government who could only spare 1% annually from its construction budget to protect its most unique and valuable city. My point still stands that there is plenty of blame to go around and that government is institutionally incapable of creatively problem-solving disasters that haven’t happened.

    Oh, for those of you who think I am heartless and that I care and know nothing about the suffering of Katrina: I was there in Houston as the buses of half-clothed, hungry people rolled into the parking lots of any available building. I was at Kelly AFB in San Antonio seeing people living in rooms with acres of cots side by side. I was in Gulfport, Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis, MS and saw where the eye of the storm passed over. I was in hotels in Dallas that were entirely populated by evacuees and I was even in Beaumont, TX after Rita. I spent a month delivering aid supplies and seeing what an unstoppable force Katrina was and how difficult it was to make any difference. I say that for no other reason that to show that I am not talking about this from a state of total ignorance.

    Last night while pondering what we’ve been discussing, I realized that what annoyed me most was the selective outrage. I haven’t read all of your posts and comments so feel free to correct me, but have you written as passionately about other public figures’ statements? I really have to get things done before I leave, but here is my short list of racist statements that are OK (apparently) and those that are not:

    Acceptable racism:
    -calling Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell a house slave
    -Jessie Jackson saying he is going to visit “Hymie in Hymietown” in reference to Jews
    -Senator Slow Joe Biden saying that Obama is the first articulate, clean, bright, black candidate for President
    -Al Sharpton inciting race riots which lead to the virtual lynchings of at least 8 Jews in Harlem and Brooklyn (1991, 1995)
    -Hilary Clinton saying that Mahatma Gadhi is the guys that runs the gas station in East St. Louis
    -Sen. (and former Klansman) Robert Byrd saying its ok that used the N word in the past since he knows white n_____s too.
    -People saying “White Americans don’t…” while never dreaming of making that generalization about “Black Americans” (sorry, I don’t actually think you’re a racist or America hater, I just couldn’t resist)

    Unacceptable racisim:
    -Bush joking with black musicians from N.O. about cleaning up after a show
    -Trent Lott complementing ancient former segregationist Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday party

    I know there are more but like a rushed Thursday 13, I am having trouble finishing within my time constraints, so I’ll have to chat with you guys and gals later. Have a great 2 weeks. Check out my blog if you have any interest in where I’m going and what I’m doing (Hint: it’s not a vacation).

  10. Comment from Himself:

    You’re building a straw man. Acceptable racism? Not around here. I’ll criticize Rice for her extremist views, Powell for holding his tongue on Iraq until it was too late, Biden for being a racist prick, etc., etc., but I’m not going to defend racism.

    And just as I will make the generalization that white Americans don’t care about black Americans and are ignorant about their continuing plight, I’ll make the generalization that black Americans feel oppressed and share a sense of righteous indignation at having to continually fight for a respectable place in society. This doesn’t mean that all white people and all black people feel this way. But in general, thems the facts. We’ll never live in a color blind society unless we acknowledge — and come to terms with — the fact that this great nation was built on slave labor, and the descendants of those slaves still do not fully enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice.

  11. Comment from Matt:

    I wasn’t building anything but a history of non-commentary on equally asinine statements. Of course you will criticize the statements I included. They’re idiotic and I didn’t expect you to defend them. The point is that they are only noteworthy when someone from my side of the political spectrum makes them. Bush says this and you’re on him, but did you post when Biden made the exact statement that you say every American should know not to say to a Black man? I only ask for equality of outrage when the issue is current, not just when I push the point.

    See what you’ve done?!? I should be making preparations and you’ve pulled me right back into the fun! For real this time…have a great day!

  12. Comment from Himself:

    Just one example, then I’ll be happy to let this thread die.

    Joe Biden was thrashed by the left for his racist comments. Check this Google search of just The Nation. Joe Biden did not get a pass from the left.