So I see that President Bush has accepted the blame for the Federal government's less-than-adequate response to Hurricane Katrina. Good for him.
And, to indulge more bluntness than I usually allow myself here, screw him.
This was not the contrition of a President come to grips with a serious policy gaffe; this was the act of a President who has strenuously denied reality for weeks until the public opinion polls finally could no longer be ignored. This is the man who acted to pass the buck to anyone and everyone he could think of, including the massively unqualified political crony he'd put in charge and who'd then mucked up the job in question (but not before trying to publicly praise the man for his "great job"), and then tried trotting out the tsk-tsk talking point of "not playing the blame game". For years I've listened to conservatives insist that Bill Clinton governed by opinion poll, so color me unimpressed that George W. Bush is doing the same thing. Especially after he
Did the local and state governments screw up? You'd better believe it, and screw them, too. But looking at this Katrina timeline, the most damning line is this:
BUSH GOES TO BED WITHOUT ACTING ON BLANCO’S REQUESTS
Here's the President, with the Governors of one of his states having declared an official state of emergency three days before, and now strongly reiterating her request for help from the Presidential level...turning in for the night.
And then there's this, from the President's statement today:
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.
"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.
The president was asked whether people should be worried about the government's ability to handle another terrorist attack given failures in responding to Katrina.
"Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That's a very important question and it's in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond," Bush replied.
He said he wanted to know both what went wrong and what went right.
Well, the President wants to know what went wrong. Sounds like a job for one of those Congressional hearing committee things. If only we had a Congress that thought that executive oversight was something to be done for Republican Presidents.
And isn't it a bit chilling that the President is admitting that he just doesn't know if his government is ready to suit up in the event of a severe terrorist attack? This is the President who was re-elected a little less than a year ago on a campaign consisting of little more than, "If you elect my opponent, you will probably die in a massive terrorist attack. I am gonna keep you safe; he is gonna get you killed. You're safe with me, America. I got your back." (And don't even try claiming that this wasn't the subtext of the President's re-election campaign. Here's how one prominent right-wing blogger summed it up.)
Except, well...he didn't when he had four days' notice that something bad was about to happen, and he doesn't have the first clue if he'll have our back when he learns of the event as Andy Card whispers it in his ear whilst in mid-photo op. Now here he is, safely in office and free from the concerns of seeking re-election again, and he can stand up and say, "Gee whiz, folks, I don't know if you're safe. We gotta figure that one out. It's quite the headscratcher."
I'm glad he's going to take this stuff seriously now. It's nice to think that maybe we'll now have a President who takes policy seriously, and who doesn't staff his crucial departments with cronies.
Then again, maybe I shouldn't hold my breath. E.J. Dionne notwithstanding, it's a long time until January 20, 2009.
(And no, I'm not arguing about what a hypothetical "President Kerry" would have done. I'm angry about what the all-too-real "President Bush" actually did do.)
EDIT: Broken link removed completely, as I ended up using the link in another place but forgot to remove the HTML code.