Monday, September 05, 2005

Political blame game

Dan Balz's political analysis of the political repercussions of our nation's politically elected chief executive's weak political leadership:

Along the Gulf Coast, there is no common enemy for Bush to fight -- only a hurricane that has come and gone.

In this case, anger has been focused on Bush and his administration to a degree unprecedented in his presidency. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said in an ABC News interview that aired Sunday that she would consider punching the president and others for their response to what happened there. Local officials, some in tears, have angrily accused the administration of callousness and negligence.

Meanwhile, Dubya is on his second day of Gulf Coast photo ops. Day 1 was Friday. Day 2 is Labor Day, a week after the hurricane eased and the levees broke.

Please pay careful attention to this prominent republican quoted in Jim VandeHei's piece in today's Washington Post:

Bush is trying to undo what many Republicans described as considerable damage to the White House inflicted by Bush's crisis management. "Almost every Republican I have spoken with is disappointed" in Bush's performance, said William Kristol, a conservative columnist with close White House ties. "He is a strong president . . . but he has never really focused on the importance of good execution. I think that is true in many parts of his presidency."

More blame-game in the New York Times:

Local and state resources were so weakened, said Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, that in the future federal authorities need to take "more of an upfront role earlier on, when we have these truly ultracatastrophes."

But furious state and local officials insisted that the real problem was that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Mr. Chertoff's department oversees, failed to deliver urgently needed help and, through incomprehensible red tape, even thwarted others' efforts to help.

"We wanted soldiers, helicopters, food and water," said Denise Bottcher, press secretary for Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana. "They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart."

Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans expressed similar frustrations. "We're still fighting over authority," he told reporters on Saturday. "A bunch of people are the boss. The state and federal government are doing a two-step dance."

Once the MSM really fixates on the blame-game, and they will because that phrase rhymes, it's going to be politically untenable for FEMA and HLS to blame smaller governments.

Under the headline of "White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage" in the NY Times:

It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

Ron Brownstein in the LA Times:

It was an encouraging, if modest, start Friday when Bush acknowledged the results of the relief effort were "not acceptable."

But the president quickly diluted that message when he added that he was "satisfied with the response," if not the conditions on the ground. Rather than mincing words about Washington's performance, the president should be the first one asking questions — in public and in private.

If it wasn't so tragic, it might be ironic that New Orleans has been submerged into misery as the nation prepares to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Government at all levels has spent billions of dollars since 2001 to prepare for another catastrophe. The national security bureaucracy has undergone the largest reorganization since World War II with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The president has repeatedly declared the nation on war footing.

And then, as many as three and four days after the levees burst around New Orleans, survivors were stepping around bodies in the street and officials at one hospital were moving patients to upper floors because the lower levels had been lost to looters prowling the halls.


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