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Hullabaloo


Monday, August 28, 2006

 
Pimping the Victims

by digby

Remember this woman?




Bronwynne Bassier was desperate. Roaming the streets of her Biloxi, Miss., neighborhood four days after Katrina, scavenging for food and clothes for her 2-year-old son, Bassier stumbled upon the one man who presumably could help: President George W. Bush. Rushing toward him, the 22-year-old single mother pleaded and sobbed. "My son needs clothes," she cried. "I've lost everything." Momentarily stunned, Bush appeared on the verge of tears himself as he listened. Bush tried to direct her and her younger sister, Kim, toward a Salvation Army shelter down the road, but ultimately comforted them the only way he knew how: he hugged them. "Hang in there," he told Bassier, kissing her forehead. "We're going to take care of you." Press cameras captured the moment and beamed the image of compassion around the globe.

A year later, Bassier's life remains like that of countless other Katrina victims: she lives in a FEMA trailer with her son and new husband. Her story offers a window into the workaday reality of life post-Katrina. "Meeting [Bush] didn't really change anything for me," Bassier tells NEWSWEEK. "I've been just like everybody else, trying to move forward with my life one day at a time." In a new NEWSWEEK Poll, 51 percent of Americans say they don't think Bush has followed through on his promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

To complicate matters, Bassier—a native of South Africa—has had a hard time getting a work visa. She'd applied for one after graduating from a local college last summer, but in the chaos of Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security lost the paperwork. More than a year later, her application is still pending. In May, Bassier sent a letter to the man who'd been there for her last year. But as of last Thursday, the president still hadn't responded. A White House spokeswoman confirmed last week that the administration received it, but said it had been forwarded to DHS. "We don't intervene in individual cases," says Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.


But guess what? Just in time for the Katrina anniversary, when Bush is planning his series of saccharine, phony photo-ops, somebody gets a call:

This chapter of Bassier's story may yet have a happy ending: after NEWSWEEK's inquiries, Bassier received a call Friday from the White House inviting her to meet with President Bush this Monday when he visits Gulfport to mark the first anniversary of Katrina. (A White House aide tells NEWSWEEK that the invitation had long been in the works, but they hadn't been able to locate her until Friday.) She plans to make her case in person for a work visa. And she wants to thank President Bush for coming back. She's not angry, but she's looking for more than a hug.



I'm sure the invitation was in the works for some time. They have been planning their pageant for months. Perhaps if they'd spent as much time working on actually fixing the problems as how to spin them, the Gulf Coast might look a little bit better today.

Let's hope they come across with that work visa and more. Too bad Ms Bassier didn't have an agent. She could have set herself up for life.


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