Friday, September 09, 2005


With thousands likely dead and a massive aid and reconstruction project requiring competent leadership, what is the priority of the Bush administration? Making sure Bush doesn't look bad. I think this event has shown the limits of their "words speak louder than actions" approach to everything, and it's a shame. At almost any step of the way - up to and even INCLUDING now - had they decided that actions might actually be important Bush would still have a chance to ride this one to heroism - and, incidentally, helped the victims. That isn't to say PR wouldn't play a part of that, but it's PR which requires a bit more than the "message: I care" approach his father pioneered.

WASHINGTON - There's an intense damage-control debate at the White House over whether President Bush should name a Katrina relief czar, and the idea's backers are pushing former mayor Rudy Giuliani as a dream candidate.
But some top Bush aides think a brand-name disaster boss like Giuliani, dubbed "America's Mayor" for his leadership after 9/11, or former secretary of state Colin Powell would remind Americans of the administration's sluggish initial response to the hurricane.

"You don't want someone overshadowing the President," said an official in the "ride it out" camp. "That leaves him looking weak."

Living as they do in Washington I suppose one shouldn't be surprised that the Washington Post editorial board is incapable of seeing that everything isn't just about politics. Even real live politicians, and certainly plenty of other people tangentially involved in the business of politics, occasionally may be motivated by more than political opportunism which the Post seems to ascribe to all of the president's critics. As has been clear all along, only public outcry was motivating the Bush administration to do anything. Only harsh press coverage, where Brownie and Chertoff seemed to be getting all of their information from (if days late), seemed to make them aware of the realities on the ground. And, finally, only public criticism by politicians seemed to really inspire them to act.

It's the Bush administration that's entirely about politics, not all of their critics. This is Fred Hiatt's World, not ours.

Some of the administration's political opponents are reacting to the administration's fumbling with barely disguised glee, hoping it will hobble the administration's policy plans and hurt the GOP in the 2006 elections and beyond. But all Americans, Democrats and Republicans, ought to hope that the administration will right itself sufficiently to oversee an effective recovery. And that's not just for the sake of Katrina's survivors. For the president to be rendered a lame duck more than three years before he leaves office would not serve the country well, at home or abroad.