One of my favorite movies is The Caine Mutiny which stars Humphrey Bogart as the Captain of a World War II destroyer whose maniacal obsession with Navy regulations as well as a strange, disquieting habit of rolling three ball bearings around and around in his hand whenever he was under pressure earned Bogey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (losing that year to Brando’s On the Waterfront).
The film is well worth seeing if only to enjoy Fred McMurray’s performance as the spineless heel who first advocates mutiny against the tyrannical Captain Queeg but in the end, fails to back up the mutineers at the trial. And the hugely underrated Jose Ferrer (see his Cyrano de Bergerac for proof) as the defense attorney, whose cross examination of the Captain is at once both devastating and sad, also makes viewing the film a must see.
A major point in the film that reveals Captain Queeg’s mental imbalance occurs when he begins a ship-wide search for some strawberries that have gone “missing.” Queeg is reliving what he considers one of his career highlights when, as a junior officer, he led a successful search for some missing cheese. The hunt for the strawberries takes on a surreal quality as the ship is turned upside down in an effort to find the fruit that, we are eventually told, was eaten by two mess mates who are terrified of Queeg’s wrath.
Queeg never finds the strawberries. But reading the reports in the MSM over the last two days about the “new” information contained in the Katrina tapes, I am happy to say that the media has taken up Captain Queeg’s quest and has indeed, solved the mystery of the missing strawberries; they were in the White House all along:
Three days after Hurricane Katrina wiped out most of New Orleans, President Bush appeared on television and said, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” His staff has spent the past six months trying to take back, modify or explain away those 10 words.
The release of a pre-storm video showing officials warning Bush during a conference call that the hurricane approaching the Gulf Coast posed a dire threat to the city and its levees has revived a dispute the White House had hoped to put behind it: Was the president misinformed, misspoken or misleading?
The video leaves little doubt that key people in government did anticipate that the levees might not hold. To critics, especially Democrats but even some Republicans, it reinforces the conclusion that the government at its highest levels failed to respond aggressively enough to the danger bearing down on New Orleans. To Bush aides, the seeming conflict between Bush’s public statements and the private deliberations captured on tape reflects little more than an inartful statement opponents are exploiting for political purposes.
The metaphor of the missing strawberries is apt for more than just the obvious reason that this is the biggest non-story of the year to date. As I mentioned yesterday, both the substance and thrust of these pre-Katrina meetings had been widely disseminated months ago. The real Queeg-like comparison is a raging triumphalism regarding what the left sees as another chance to accomplish what the first go around with the strawberries/federal Katrina response failed to do; outrage the American public.
Ginning up public disgust with the Bush Administration has been a hard slog for the media. They have evinced so much desperation in trying to manipulate public perceptions of the President they have gone so far as to try and make an impeachable offense out of giving a Republican shill, who masqueraded as a gay prostitute by night, press room credentials so that he could toss softball questions at Press Secretary McClellan. The Gannon-Guckert “scandal” showed how far the left was willing to go to find those elusive strawberries.
Other strawberry hunting excursions included the Downing Street memos (no missing fruit in England), Bush “lied” about WMD (strawberries don’t grow in the desert), we could have prevented the attacks on 9/11 (New York strawberries are too expensive), and we “outsourced” the capture of Osama (no good trying to compare strawberries with blueberries). There have been a half a dozen more efforts to pin the theft of the strawberries on Bush, each one more laughable than the next. In the end, the public has been troubled by Bush but have yet to abandon him entirely. Recent polls have been all over the lot (thanks to some incredibly strange methodology) which usually reveals a volatility in public perceptions which go up and down according to the news of the day.
This is why the Katrina response has been resurrected at this time. Apparently, most of the tapes now being shown were in the film vaults of the news nets all along. Howard Kurtz:
In fact, we’ve already had transcripts of the meeting, so all this did was provide television with some much-needed pictures. (In fact, all the networks had the FEMA video in their archives but didn’t realize the news value.)
NBC’s Lisa Myers yesterday obtained a videotape of another meeting in which Brownie—who’s been blaming just about everything on the White House and Chertoff—said Bush was “really engaged” and “asking a lot of good questions.” On that tape, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco reports that the New Orleans levees had not been breached.
If the nets had the FEMA video all along, why make a big issue of it now? Sometimes you have to trod over old ground when searching for missing strawberries lest they escape down the rabbit hole.
That triumphalism mentioned above finds no better voice than in the impeachment rants of leftist dreamers. This comment was left on my Katrina post yesterday:
On and on goes the great liar, not to be confused with the great communicator, daily deceiving the lemmings in the republican party who are in for a very rude awakening this November. He will thankfully be removed from office next year along with the other members of the cabal of evil. Oh what a glorious day that will be.
Sounds like Captain Queeg is alive and well.