Thursday, September 01, 2005

Waiting for a Leader in the aftermath of the hurricane

Effective editorial today in the New York Times which captures some of my sentiment as I watched excerpts of Bush's statement during news coverage of the aftermath yesterday.

Why does it always take this guy longer to catch on to the gravity of the situation? The reference here to his demeanour seems particularly apt: "casual to the point of carelessness." And another worthwhile excerpt:
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
And of course, on Wednesday night's Faux "Special Report", Brit Hume and his pals tried their best to cover for him. Saying that even after 9/11, he didn't make his great speech until 9 days later. What a consolation. The President needs his written text and a few more days to get up to speed. In this second term, Bush's irrelevance to this situation seems so palpable.

At least Aaron Brown has been somewhat useful, raising more than once the question of the slow to appear National Guard presence, questioning whether their deployment to Iraq has hurt their quick deployment in the affected states. The Bush Administration claims that 60% of the Guard are available in Louisiana and Mississippi for deployment...but as the Mayor of New Orleans stated the other night, he wished what was available was there sooner. Bet he wishes he had 100% of them for assistance right now.

There are many issues, clearly, that this disaster is bringing to the fore:

Bush's questionable sense of judgment and inability to lead without a script.

The deployment of the National Guard in Iraq.

The very presence of the U.S. in Iraq, at a cost of untold billions, when these southern states will themselves cost billions to right. In the wake of success in fostering a rising anti-war sentiment, will this disaster cement that feeling?

The deflection of funds into Iraq and homeland security at the expense of municipal and state projects such as the New Orleans' levee system.

Americans' views on the role of government. The need for strong and effectively funded government, at all levels, to lead not only in a time of crisis but to prevent disasters such as this is clear. The "less is more" and "everyman for himself" streaks running through American conservatism today, as manifested in the Bush administration's policies are untenable in this day and age. Are you listening, Democrats?

The calibre of the Homeland Security response. Thus far, the spectre of those waiting for days without water, food or medicine would indicate it needs significant improvement. If terrorists are watching this tragedy unfold, and undoubtedly they are, the disarray and delay will be of obvious interest to them.

See this column as well, for another take on Bush's coming "political hurricane."