We've commented before on Bush's use of stagecraft to present images that agree only with his view of the world or how he would like people to believe-we also believe that these are scurrilous methods of,as Bush has said "catapulting the propaganda". We have another instance from Bush's trip on Friday to Mississippi of his usage of firefighters to add bounce to his photo opportunities. Instead of firefighters being used to rescue people, Bush had them appear with him in his photos, while FEMA used them to hand out flyers.
Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.
"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."
The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.
Firefighters endure a day of FEMA training, which included a course on sexual harassment. Some firefighters say their skills are being wasted.
But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
Is there nothing sacred that the president will not use to prop up his sagging image? This is not 9/11.
Dallas officials, after seeing this, were reconsidering whether to send rescue personnel out, if they were only to be used for photos ops or passing out flyers.
But among their first tasks was to go to training sessions at an Atlanta hotel. They were instructed on diversity, sexual harassment and the history of FEMA. Most are there for at least three days.
At least 500 have been sent to areas in need of help, while hundreds more await further instructions in Atlanta.
Some firefighters brought loads of equipment to Atlanta, in anticipation of at least assisting some of FEMA's elite urban search-and-rescue task forces along the Gulf Coast.
"On the news every night you hear, 'How come everybody forgot us?' " said Joseph Manning, a firefighter from Washington, Pa. "We didn't forget. We're stuck in Atlanta drinking beer."
The firefighters aren't the first group to grumble about FEMA's use of them.
About 500 frustrated agency urban search-and-rescue task force members spent up to a week at a Dallas hotel after FEMA ordered them to detour to Dallas last week while the situation in New Orleans stabilized.