Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday Reading

  • Frank Rich is back.

    Like the hand that suddenly pops out of the grave at the end of “Carrie,” the past keeps coming back to haunt the Bush White House. Last week was no exception. No sooner did the Great Decider introduce the Fox News showman anointed to repackage the same old bad decisions than the spotlight shifted back to Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury room, where Karl Rove testified for a fifth time. Nightfall brought the release of an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll with its record-low numbers for a lame-duck president with a thousand days to go and no way out.

    The demons that keep rising up from the past to grab Mr. Bush are the fictional W.M.D. he wielded to take us into Iraq. They stalk him as relentlessly as Banquo’s ghost did Macbeth. From that original sin, all else flows. Mr. Rove wouldn’t be in jeopardy if the White House hadn’t hatched a clumsy plot to cover up its fictions. Mr. Bush’s poll numbers wouldn’t be in the toilet if American blood was not being spilled daily because of his fictions. By recruiting a practiced Fox News performer to better spin this history, the White House reveals that it has learned nothing. Made-for-TV propaganda propelled the Bush presidency into its quagmire in the first place. At this late date only the truth, the whole and nothing but, can set it free.

  • Development around the new Miami Performing Arts Center is taking off like a rocket…and some people are worried that it may be too much too fast.

    No fewer than 22 major residential and commercial projects are under construction, approved or proposed in the neighborhood surrounding the center’s twin halls — along Biscayne Boulevard and Biscayne Bay, on the site of the shuttered Omni Mall, and in the largely derelict blocks to the west and north of the MPAC, where bulldozers are daily at work, tearing down vacant warehouses and the last few rickety wooden houses remaining from the early days of Miami’s expansion.

    To ecstatic city officials and arts supporters, the development wave augurs fulfillment of a vision some skeptics once scoffed at — a dynamic, artsy urban district comprising lofts, condos, stores, offices, restaurants and nightclubs, with rising property values and tax revenues, all with the MPAC as its beating civic heart. Not least of all, such a thriving district would put thousands of new, affluent residents at the MPAC’s doorstep to help ensure the success of the $446 million public and private investment it represents.

    But the headlong rush to develop troubles some.

    It is occurring with no comprehensive development plan in place. Even as the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, nominally in charge of guiding the Omni district’s revival, spent three years and $716,000 preparing a 250-page master plan for the area, the City Commission has approved one massive project after another, rendering moot some sections of the CRA’s plan before it was ready. The city’s vaunted new, neighborhood-friendly development rule book, Miami 21, is months behind schedule and may not be in place until fall.

    Even some in the real estate business question whether stacks of high-priced condos — with few provisions for new parks, public spaces or other public amenities, much less affordable housing or a solution to the area’s persistent homeless problem — are what the MPAC district really needs amid signs of a possible condo glut.

    Take it from someone who has to negotiate the roadblocks, the construction, and the sights, sounds, and smells of this growth; this is going to be a hell of a ride.

  • Like any performance, the perception depends on the audience. At last night’s White House correspondents dinner, Stephen Colbert lampooned the president, and Editor and Publisher says the Bushes were “not amused.”

    A blistering comedy “tribute” to President Bush by Comedy Central’s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.


    Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

    He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”

    Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”

    Turning to the war, he declared, “I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.”

    He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, just three tables away from Karl Rove, and that he had brought ” Valerie Plame.” Then, worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, “Uh, I mean… he brought Joseph Wilson’s wife.” He might have “dodged the bullet,” he said, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wasn’t there.


    As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and handshakes, and left immediately.

    But according to the righties, it was Colbert who bombed and Bush who laughed it off. Oh, well… as Lord Byron said, “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ’tis that I may not weep.”