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?"