Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush stepping up?

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With last night's address and today's speech leading the nation in a day of prayer, the Bush Administration, finally, pro-actively confronted their leadership responsibilities. In the direct aftermath of the hurricane and storm, when many were laying into Bush, I sincerely felt the criticisms were inappropriate. In my opinion the office of the Presidency was the beacon of hope, above and beyond the recriminations... from which Bush, like his predecessors Reagan and Clinton, might display the requisite compassion and humility that would reflect the nation's state of mind and bind everyone together.

I wrote this: "Bush will rise to the occasion"

My expectations were not met. The President's tone throughout this crisis has been misjudged. He has displayed frivolity at inappropriate moments... he has failed to embody a powerful sense of initiative, drive, and finding solutions at any and all costs, characteristic of real leadership... and, up until last night, he hadn't connected with the depth and breadth of this tragedy in his words.

Many might respond such things are frivolous compared to the important practical work of rescuing what is left of New Orleans, and I understand. But, at times like this we need our leaders, regardless of our political affiliations. September 11th showed us that. What has angered me more than anything is the manner in which the Administration allowed political self-preservation to cloud what should have been an absolute, uninhibited devotion those in peril and the truth, regardless of any political cost to themselves.

How can the Administration wage a political campaign of talking points to deflect criticism by discussing the "blame game" with greater frequency than the tragedy itself? How can these talking points be so effectively disseminated and publically expressed by Administration officials, the head of FEMA and the DHS... when, by comparison, two weeks ago their level of co-ordination was so poor I wouldn't have trusted them running a school girl soccer game, yet alone the response to a catastrophic national disaster? Why is there a discrepancy in their effectiveness when it comes to saving lives as opposed to their political credibility? How can those very same proclaimers of what constitutes 'a game of blame' then happily resort to blaming local and state officials every chance they get to divert negative attention away from themselves?

And even now, after everything that has transpired, there is a sense that these speeches have been mistimed. The emotional tragedy of Katrina that Bush is attempting to resonate with is no longer at the forefront of the national discourse. At this time, are people looking for the spiritual leadership of Giulliani during 9/11, or Reagan's emotive address after the Challenger exploded like they might have been when in the initial grip of this humanitarian disaster? Or are they now beginning to ask the tough questions about the failures at all levels of government concerned about the nation's preparedness for another disaster or something worse?

The truth is that we should all be glad that Administration is finally engaging Bush with his ultimate responsibility as Commander In Chief - to lead. I'm just left with one question:

"What took you so long, Mr President?"

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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was a good speech.

Graham said...

I think so too. I just wish its tone was the focus of President earlier on when it was most needed.

Chris said...

And your question is very warranted.

Good speech or not, really doesn't matter. Jesse Jackson gives good speeches too, yet his credibility doesn't measure up to his words. The same is true for Bush.

I think Rove being placed in charge of the reconstruction operation says everything in regards to Bush's handling of the disaster.

If Bush and conservatives and neocons alike want to stop the blaming and the politics, then remove Rove from the scene and the tone would change.

It's hard to believe an administration cares when the chief political advisor is in charge of the operation. Rove is a master at political campaigns. What does that tell us about Bush's latest endeavor?

Graham said...

I wasn't aware of Rove being placed in charge of the reconstruction operation. I couldn't find any reference on the main news websites. Not only is he political advisor, but he is also Deputy Chief of Staff beneath Andrew Card. What exactly is he in charge of.. the WH contribution?

This seems a dangerous strategy with the Valerie Plame report due to be released a month from now by the Special Prosecutor.

Chris said...

I have two mentions on my site from NY Times and the Post about Rove being placed in charge.

It's also all over Josh Marshall's site www.talkingpointsmemo.com

Rove is in charge of the overall effort. Which is bullshit, if I may add.

Graham said...

Thanks MJ :). You'll have to tell me what you were referring to about that campaign on Alice's site when u get the chance... u piqued my curiosity.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

He still doesn't get what this tragedy means to the people he may now get what it means to his presidency but not to the people who suffered from it. Just as he does and did not gt what was going to happen when we went to Iraq.

I don't think it was a good speech at all although I know many will call it good and say look what he has done and what he is going to do.

Too late, and motivated by the polls.

NYgirl said...

Speech making has long been a weakness of President Bush's. Even his 9/11 one wasn't all that great. His great moment was at the WTC site when he took the megaphone & said, "I hear you & soon the people who did this are going to hear you"...

The blame game on the other hand, was begun by the local officials: remember Nagin's infamous French? Whenever something happens, the local officials should be the first responders. Mississippi was hit worse, but had none of the problems that NO did. Also, NO officials prevented medical help from coming in with red tape. They also hindered a pet rescue.

Graham said...

I thought the speech was good, actually. Excellent in fact, in its tone, and sentiment.

In regards to the blame game and where it started that isn't my point, so much as the Federal officials have effectively waged a political campaign in the midst of this tragedy referencing "the blame game" when the very last thing on their minds should be self preservation, or political posturing. It's made worse by the fact that they then in turn blame everyone else.

I wasn't criticizing the actual role of the Federal Gov't, although that is certainly very complicated. I was criticizing the President for not coming close to fulfilling his leadership role... which really disappointed me + many Republicans. It shouldn't take a collection of poor approval ratings to inspire the right tone in the President. Nor should his attempts at real leadership have been so belated.

Thanks for commenting NY Girl :). I appreciate your POV.

jamal said...

Bush's words were far from confronting responsibility. His unachievable proposals were beyond responsible.

Opinionated Voice

Graham said...

At least he was significantly engaging with the breadth of the issue. His proposals aren't unachievable... we should be seeking to rebuild New Orleans, and the places affected by Katrina. The question is more how sustainable that approach is with the brand of speculative economics that is currently being employed by this Administration.

Brad said...

You base Bush's leadership on a speech he gives? That's incredibly naive. How many times has he backed up his speeches with decisive action in the direction he said he would? It's hovering right around zero.

He tells the American people what they want to hear, such as that he is determined to end global warming. Then his actions show his true purpose, selling America to the lowest bidder (which is usually Halliburton), the good of the people be damned.

Graham said...

Hey Brad,

I don't think I was complimenting Bush's leadership at all. But, I do think the speech he gave was something like what the nation needed directly in the aftermath of the hurricane and storm... leadership of that kind, of the kind Reagan aptly demonstrated after the challenger exploded, and Giulliani brilliantly displayed in NY after 9/11... transcends politics, and helps us come together to overcome what might appear insurmountable. This is one facet of the President's responsibilities in a crisis like this.

The practical issues looking back or ahead will become clearer in time. You don't need to tell me about how irresponsible this Administration's approach to Global warming is... but, the issue of leadership is more pertinent. I wish Bush's speech, its tone, and its determination to overcome came two weeks ago when it was really needed, and not in response to dwindling support in opinion polls.

Thanks for your comment Brad :).

Skarr said...

Graham, thanks for your encouraging comments on my blog and I hope you like my book, which is sure to be an exciting read, particularly if you're a fan of historical fiction set in ancient Rome.

With the current volume of interest being generated by HBO's "Rome", I'm hoping there are a lot of fans out there who will discover / pick up my book.

Graham said...

All the best Skarr :).

Graham said...

Just to bookend this thread I wanted to post this link:

Donna Brazile praises President Bush

... in which she says this:

"On Thursday night President Bush spoke to the nation from my city. I am not a Republican. I did not vote for George W. Bush -- in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast"

This is the type of influence a President can wield, bringing people together... and maybe Bush will still manange to accomplish this. I just feel as though an opportunity was lost via some poor, politically calculated decisions.

Let's hope the future might bring some unity, and real direction and purpose for the sake of all those places, and people affected by this disaster.