Stolen Honore



Greg Pollowitz swoons over Lt. General Russell Honore, the Katrina hero and possible gubernatorial candidate, linking to the best newspaper in America with the worst web design:

When Katrina made landfall, the veteran soldier—who once commanded troops in Korea and prepares troops to deal with explosives in Iraq—approached the storm as he would a cunning enemy that cut supply lines and communications with one fell swoop.

Honore soon became an icon of leadership, a walking caricature of a take-charge soldier whose growling one-liners and commanding presence didn't just compel his soldiers into action, but civilians as well.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who blasted the Bush administration's response to his city's disaster, offered the president rare praise for sending "one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done." Former FEMA Director Michael Brown called him a "bull in the China closet, God love him."

Here I have to break with my superiors and comment: Ohhhhhh, well if Ray Nagin thinks he's competent!

Maybe I'm being reflexively contrarian, but Honore's inflated image never sat right with me; he arrived in New Orleans at just the right time, like the hero no one thought was coming in a direct-to-video Eric Roberts movie (is there any other kind?). The media had reported on government officials' failures for 72 hours, and casting was open for a heroic figure who could sweep away all of their mistakes. In came Honore, who 1)was tall, 2)wore a beret, and 3)cursed at people. This year-old Washington Post profile is a good example of Honore Chic—nothing Lynne Duke sees is extraordinary in the rescue effort that was finally running smoothly, but Honore is big and he has a cigar and he ends sentences in cable news interviews by saying "over."

None of this precludes Honore doing an effective job with his part of the rescue effort. Still, what's with the need to fetishize and create icons out of military men? Why immediately assume he'd make a good Republican candidate for governor? There's an undercurrent of "big, strong men will solve our problems" here that frankly weirds me out.