Friday, September 16


Mr. Bush called for unity in tackling the problems. But with only a camera before him, and New Orleans silent around him, he could draw no strength or self-assurance from the cheers of a united nation, as he did when he addressed a joint session of Congress nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Not only did his own stagecraft leave him alone in the spotlight, but whatever good will flowed to him across the aisle in those moments after the terrorist attacks is long gone, a victim of a polarized political culture that he did not create but to which he has often contributed. -- NYT front-page story, Sept. 16

Mr. Bush's problem in dealing with Katrina has been, at bottom, the same one that has bedeviled the administration since 9/11. The president came to office with a deep antipathy toward big government that has turned out to be utterly inappropriate for the world he inherited. The result has not been less government, but it has definitely been inept government.

We have already seen what happened to the Federal Emergency Management Agency when it was taken over by an administration that didn't like large federal agencies with sweeping mandates. For Iraq, the White House asserted that open-ended and no-bid contracts doled out to big corporations run by people known to government officials would mean swifter, more efficient operations. What we got was gross inefficiency, which has run up costs while failing in many cases to do the jobs required.

Given this history, it's impossible not to worry about what will happen to the billions of dollars being committed to New Orleans, especially since the Army Corps of Engineers' top man in the reclamation effort was once the corps' top man overseeing contracts in Iraq.
-- NYT editorial, Sept. 16

The policies Bush outlined last night bear the distinctive stamp of a conservative president, a hallmark of an executive who has never shrunk from seeking to implement a right-leaning agenda even in the face of a divided country. They are long on tax relief and business grants and loans, and focused on entrepreneurial ideas. Bush already has drawn fire from Democrats for suspending the law that requires contractors to pay prevailing wages on federal projects in the regions, and there will be a battle over the proposal to provide private and parochial school vouchers to children of displaced families. -- Dan Balz, WaPo, Sept. 16

The president was all about optimism for the future--and only glancingly alluded to why the federal cavalry arrived so pathetically late. This was a night to hand out federal goodies (no mention of the budgetary impact, or whether his generic call for sacrifice might include sacrificing any other programs, such as abolition of the estate tax for the ultra-rich) Bush did devote a couple of sentences to talk about the problems of poverty and racial discrimination, two subjects he rarely addresses. But he quickly let that drop. He proposed a low-tax Gulf Opportunity Zone--but why has he never submitted such a plan for other blighted urban areas?...Four years after 9/11, Bush said, Americans have the right to expect a better disaster response. Ab-so-lutely! But what has the homeland security bureaucracy been doing since then? ...He said he'd cooperate with a congressional inquiry--controlled by Republicans--but made no mention of calls for an independent commission. -- Howie Kurtz, WaPo


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