The insider glimpses of the Bush Administration offered by the president's former senior advisor no longer have the power to shock. They’ve become as “discouragingly familiar” to the rest of us as they have to Gerson:
A proposal to help the poor or sick would be presented at a White House meeting, but Vice President Cheney's office or the budget team or some other skeptical officials would shoot it down. Too expensive. Wrong priority.
It’s no wonder victims of Katrina waited in vain; Cheney was calling the shots:
Gerson writes that he urged Bush to fire Rumsfeld after the 2004 election, but that Cheney opposed the move. He recounts meetings in which Cheney's office tried to kill proposals to increase training of death-row defense lawyers, transition assistance for prisoners and aid for Hurricane Katrina victims.
And finally we’re allowed to see something that might even make the nation's self-righteous values voters wince:
"The storm had also revealed a political and moral chasm in the Republican Party," he writes. "The president and I saw Katrina as an opportunity to open a debate on race and poverty. Anti-government Republicans saw Katrina as an opportunity to cut off medicine to old people. It confirmed the worst image of Republicans as the party of shriveled hearts."
The party of shriveled hearts: how’s that for a campaign slogan in 2008?