Bush Strafes New
Where Is Our Huey Long?
Greg Palast, Sep 2, 2005
(Posted here by Wes Penre, Sep 3, 2005)
National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she'd
piss on herself: the President of the United had flown his plane down to
1700 feet to get a better look at the flood damage! And there was a
photo of our Commander-in-Chief taken looking out the window. He looked
very serious and concerned.
That was yesterday. Today he played golf. No kidding.
I'm sure the people of New Orleans would have liked to show their
appreciation for the official Presidential photo-strafing, but their
surface-to-air missiles were wet.
There is nothing new under the sun. In 1927, a Republican President had
his photo taken as the Mississippi rolled over New Orleans. Calvin
Coolidge, "a little fat man with a notebook in his hand," promised to
rebuild the state. He didn't. Instead, he left to play golf with Ken Lay
or the Ken Lay railroad baron equivalent of his day.
In 1927, the Democratic Party had died and was awaiting burial. As
depression approached, the coma-Dems, like Franklin Roosevelt, called
for balancing the budget.
Then, as the waters rose, one politician finally said, roughly, "Screw
this! They're lying! The President's lying! The rich fat cats that are
drowning you will do it again and again and again. They lead you into
imperialist wars for profit, they take away your schools and your hope
and when you complain, they blame Blacks and Jews and immigrants. Then
they push your kids under. I say, Kick'm in the ass and take your
Huey Long laid out a plan: a progressive income tax, real money for
education, public works to rebuild Louisiana and America, an end to wars
for empire, and an end to financial oligarchy. The waters receded, the
anger did not, and Huey "Kingfish" Long was elected Governor of
Louisiana in 1928.
At the time, Louisiana schools were free, but not the textbooks.
Governor Long taxed Big Oil to pay for the books. Rockefeller's oil
companies refused pay the textbook tax, so Long ordered the National
Guard to seize Standard Oil's fields in the Delta.
Huey Long was called a "demagogue" and a "dictator." Of course. Because
it was Huey Long who established the concept that a government of the
people must protect the people, school, house, and feed them and give
every man or woman a job who needs one.
Government, he said, "We The People," not plutocrats nor Halliburtons,
must build bridges and levies to keep the waters from rising over our
heads. All we had to do was share the nation's wealth we created as a
nation. But that meant facing down what he called the "concentrations of
monopoly power" to finance the needs of the public.
In other words, Huey Long founded the modern Democratic Party. Franklin
Roosevelt and the party establishment, scared senseless of Long's
ineluctable march to the White House, adopted his program, called it the
New Deal, and later The New Frontier and the Great Society.
America and the party prospered.
America could use a Democratic Party again and there's a rumor it's
alive -- somewhere.
And now is the moment, as it was in '27. As the bodies float in the
streets of New Orleans, now is not the time for the Democrats to shirk
and slink away, bleating they can't "politicize" this avoidable
Seventy-six years ago this week, Huey Long was shot down, assassinated
at the age of 43. But the legacy of his combat remains, from Social
Security to veterans' mortgage loans.
There is no such thing as a "natural" disaster. Hurricanes happen, but
death comes from official neglect, from tax cuts for the rich that cut
the heart out of public protection. The corpses in the street are
victims of a class war in which only one side has a general.
Where is our Huey Long? America needs just one Kingfish to stand up and
say that our nation must rid itself of the scarecrow with the idiot
chuckle, who has left America broken and in danger while he plays
tinker-toy Napoleon on other continents.
I realize that the middle of rising flood is a hell of a bad time to
give Democrats swimming lessons; but it's act up now or we all go under.
A pedagogical note: As I travel around the USA, I'm just
horrified at America's stubborn historical amnesia. Americans, as Sam
Cooke said, don't know squat about history. We don't learn the names of
a nation's capitol until the 82d Airborne lands there. And it doesn't
count if you've watched a Ken Burns documentary on PBS.
I suggest starting with this: read "Huey Long" by the late historian
Harry T. Williams. If you want to ease into it, get the Randy Newman
album based on it (Good Old Boys) with the song, "Louisiana 1927."
Listen to part of the song at
www.GregPalast.com. Do NOT watch the crappy right-wing agit-prop
film, "Huey Long," by Ken Burns.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times
bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his
commentaries or view his investigative reports for BBC Television at