Bush to New Orleans Jazz Legend: “Pick Up All The Trash”

(This post was corrected)

Before Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans and ruined many of its cultural landmarks, people from all over the city — all over the country, in fact — would flock to the Bywater section to see trumpeter Kermit Ruffins’ weekly gig. I was in New Orleans immediately before Katrina and had the privilege of hearing Ruffins play. Inside a small, smoky bar, with his band positioned literally inches from its raucous audience, Ruffins commanded the room, using popular R&B arrangements like John Legend’s “Ordinary People” as his platform for long, cathartic improvisations.

After the show, I spent twenty minutes talking music with Ruffins’ sidekick, the young trumpet prodigy, Trombone Shorty. A few of Shorty’s teenage friends stood nearby and listened in. The street was filled with the sound of easy chatter from liquor-sodden revelers who had stepped outside for a smoke. A Stevie Wonder song drifted from inside the bar. I think it was “My Cherie Amor.” I was a world away from the dour east coast jazz scene where staggering door fees, drink minimums, and dress codes enforce an uptight atmosphere that favors the well-to-do, excludes young people, and keeps listeners at a distance from performers, who are often conferred undue reverence.

Anyone who saw Ruffins in his element knew that behind the Bush administration’s incompetent response to Katrina was a deep-seated disrespect for the culture that thrived exclusively in New Orleans. The White House had no idea what was at stake when Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast. To Bush and his cronies, New Orleans was little more than a cesspool of black Democrats. By the time the city was flooded, their consituency was safely evacuated.

Yesterday, George W. and Laura Bush hosted Ruffins and his band, the Barbeque Swingers, at the annual Congressional Picnic. Bush’s remark to Ruffins is the ultimate symbol of his disdainful attitude towards the culture of New Orleans that he allowed to drown under the floodwaters of the Mississippi:

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We’re glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you’re here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it’s over. (Laughter.)

God bless you, and may God bless America. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

END 8:12 P.M. EDT

(I am told by a member of the press corps who attended the ceremony and by a reader that Bush directed his “pick up the trash” comment at the audience. I still find Bush’s comment reflective of a dismissive attitude to his New Orleanian guests.)

12 thoughts on “

  1. iamwil

    Bush is the epitome of the whole republican gig.

    To sew a little darkness into the lives of all.

  2. Preston Powell

    Bush once again proves why he’s the most cold-hearted, egotistical President we’ve had since Regan. His comment doesn’t surprise me in the least. Unlike most clever racists, Bush is too dumb to even conceal his.

    By the way, Max, I’m happy to see you’re a mad Jazz-head. I can picture you typing away on your latest article for The Nation, while grooving to some Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. You’re such a pimp, lol.

  3. Preston Powell

    Reagan! God, at least I should spell the ol’ hateful bastard’s name right. Speaking of Raygun, I’ve recently purchased your father’s book “The Reagan Legacy,” and it’s an incredible book based on what I’ve read so far.

  4. Preston Powell

    Actually, the title of the book is “Our Long National Daydream: A Political Pageant of the Reagan Era,” which is a collection of essays by your father. The other one I’m planning to buy also.

  5. catherine

    Dear God, make these people go away.

    I hope Mr. Ruffins attempted to “pick” up Mr. Bush following
    the latter’s comment. But no, Mr. Ruffins is
    undoubtedly too polite.

  6. Ted Ellis

    That was a pretty poor job of reporting by Max. Even I
    suspected Bush might be talking to the audience. I do
    find the comment typically rude of Bush to order his
    audience what to do. He also joked that the musicians
    ‘mediocre’ and that what they do ‘beats workin’.

    I find that even more insulting and snotty than the
    trash comment. Blumenthal might explore that attitude
    and passive/aggressive mean spirited approach Bush
    routinely uses. I’m only surprised Bush didn’t throw in
    a demeaning nickname for some of the guests.

    Catherine perhaps doesn’t realize Blumenthal
    wasn’t at the event, so couldn’t talk to him.

    PS – this comment box doesn’t line wrap when composing.
    That is a bad interface for the user.

  7. St. John

    No doubt Dubwa was just rehearsing a speech to be delivered to the Iraqi people when the U.S. finally leaves that region. Certainly, we, the US of A, won’t be picking up any trash. That is not our job. Our job is the creation of trash. We are consumers, not janitors and housekeepers. Consume/Dispose…that is what we do. Maybe we could send all of the “illegal aliens” to Iraq to clean up. We all know that is what they are good at. Isn’t that why they work as pickers in the fields? Housekeepers? Day Laborers? That would solve the immigration problem. And, if they got out of hand, they could be shot by private contractors left behind for “security”. No accountability to the U.S. legal system. And, we could train the Iraqi refugees who come to the U.S. to do the menial labor formerly done by “illegals”. After all, they are used to the heat of the harvesting season, and would be so grateful for real jobs where they wouldn’t get blown up just for showing up to work, unless some anti-immigration patriot mistook their brown skin for that of a “Mexican”, who was stealing jobs and social services from us Real Americans.

    Over the top? Perhaps, but it seems that the 20 some % who still support Dubwa are of that mindset.

    What do you think?

    Peace

    st john

  8. Virginia Dutch

    As a former New Orleanean, I second your comment about the uptight and overpriced East coast jazz scene. I refuse to patronize Blues Alley because I find their cover prices for a single set of music (usually lasting a little over an hour) to be ludcrous. Plus they don’t even list their prices anywhere – the attitude seems to be that if you have to ask you can’t afford it. Most jazz clubs in the D.C. area are similar, with the small exception of HR-57, where the quality of the music is a very mixed bag.

  9. steve in ky

    not to defend the sorry piece of trash, but the comment
    about “mediocre musicians” and “beats workin” was not
    a reference to Kermit at all, but to Tony Snow’s band,
    “Beats Workin’” which had apparently played earlier at
    the event. Still, this is an alltime low for a guy we
    thought had hit rock bottom already.

  10. Lizard

    Steve, please don’t confuse these whiners with the
    facts. Let the spin doctors dice this “story’ to their
    own likings…makes for a better story when you don’t
    have to be responsible enough to report the true
    facts..I guess that coddles their downtrodden
    lifestyle. Coulter is a recent victim of this same
    style of journalistic “excellence,” where she had a sound
    byte of her twisted to make it appear as if she said
    she wished Jon Edwards were killed in a terrorist attack.
    Of course, it was just a sarcastic retort on the comments
    from Bill Mahr wishing that Dick Cheney were killed by
    terrorists. Like I said, liberals won’t let the facts
    get in the way of a good story.

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