September 1, 2005


Vacation Ends, and Crisis Management Begins (Peter Baker, September 1, 2005, Washington Post)

As his blue-and-white jet swooped low over New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, President Bush pressed his face against the window and stared out at oblivion.

He saw an expansive lake where a storied city used to be. He saw mile after mile of flattened houses turned into so many matchsticks. He saw highways that disappeared into water, a train plucked off its track, a causeway collapsed into rubble. And he saw the next daunting challenge to confront his presidency.

After a month-long retreat at his Texas ranch, Bush returned to Washington on Wednesday in crisis-management mode, where his administration is likely to remain indefinitely. With his poll numbers at an all-time low, Bush faces one of the stiffest leadership tests since Sept. 11, 2001, with continued violence in Iraq, gasoline prices topping $3 a gallon in many places and now what he called "one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history."

In response, Bush mobilized one of the biggest relief efforts in history as his administration tapped the nation's oil reserves and dispatched Navy ships, medical teams, search and rescue squads, electrical generators, a mobile hospital, and millions of gallons of water to the region. Bush warned that it would take years to repair the damage, and aides said he expects to seek a special appropriation from Congress.

Hard New Test for President (DAVID E. SANGER, 9/01/05, NY Times)
Not since he sat in a Florida classroom as the World Trade Center burned a thousand miles away has President Bush faced a test quite like the one he returned to Washington to confront this afternoon.

After initially stumbling through that disorienting day almost exactly four years ago, Mr. Bush entered what many of his aides believe were the finest hours of his presidency. But unlike 2001, when Mr. Bush was freshly elected and there was little question that the response would include a military strike, Mr. Bush confronts this disaster with his political capital depleted by the war in Iraq.

Even before Hurricane Katrina, governors were beginning to question whether National Guard units stretched to the breaking point by service in Iraq would be available for domestic emergencies. Those concerns have now been amplified by scenes of looting and disorder. There is also the added question of whether the Department of Homeland Security, designed primarily to fight terrorism, can cope with what Mr. Bush called Wednesday "one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history."

All this has inextricably linked Mr. Bush's foreign agenda, especially Iraq, to the issue of how well he manages the federal response to the monumental problems in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Mr. Bush knows the risks. He saw up close the political damage done to his father 13 years ago this week, when the senior Mr. Bush was dispatching fighter jets to maintain a no-fly zone over parts of Iraq and promoting his trade agenda while 250,000 Floridians were reeling from the impact of Hurricane Andrew.

But the current president, in contrast, prides himself as a crisis manager. He observed in a debate with Vice President Al Gore in 2000 that natural catastrophes were "a time to test your mettle."

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2005 12:01 AM

And you'll never guess who they're blaming for the devastation.

Ha! Yes you will.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 1, 2005 3:53 PM

Bush, of course!

Posted by: Dave W. at September 1, 2005 10:15 PM