Bush Avoided "Heart of the City's Devastation"
Saturday's front-page story from White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller marking President Bush's first trip to New Orleans lays into the president as being remote and slow to act or empathize: "President Bush, facing searing criticism over the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, toured New Orleans and the Gulf Coast yesterday in his first on-the-ground look at the desperation that has gripped the region for the last five days."
"Mr. Bush's arrival coincided with long-awaited deliveries of aid to the flood zone. But the president did not interact much with storm victims, and at one site, a Salvation Army truck in Mississippi, those he did see had first been screened by Secret Service agents with metal detectors.For the first time, Mr. Bush acknowledged that the government response to the catastrophe had fallen short."
Bumiller said nothing about state and local failures of flood planning and evacuation.
"Mr. Bush did not go into the heart of the city's devastation, where thousands of largely poor, black refugees have raged at the government's response to one of the worst natural disasters in American history. The White House cited security concerns and worries about causing more chaos as the reasons for keeping Mr. Bush away from the streets and the New Orleans Superdome, where refugees have lived in squalor and lawlessness for days."
Bumiller blames Bush for not being more Clintonian and touchy-feely: "Throughout his day, Mr. Bush did not address the shocking images of the desperate and dying on television, even when he was asked by a reporter in Biloxi 'why the richest nation on earth can't get food and water to those people that need it.' Mr. Bush sidestepped the question and responded that helicopters had rescued people from rooftops and 'thousands of peoples' lives have been saved immediately, and that's good news.'"
For the full Bumiller, click here.
"Hardening Impression" of Failure for Bush (Thanks to the NYT)
White House reporter Richard Stevenson goes for style over substance in his , Saturday "news analysis," "In First Response to Crisis, Bush Strikes Off-Key Notes." The text box: "Looking for a leader amid the disaster, many see only a tentative politicians."
Stevenson shows Bush trying to battle a "hardening impression" of failure (one spread by the Times and other liberal media outlets): "From the moment he walked out of the Oval Office toward his helicopter on Friday morning until he left New Orleans at the end of the day, President Bush's task was to erase the hardening impression that his administration had failed to act with sufficient urgency to address the suffering of tens of thousands of people. Mr. Bush has been imperiled politically by the deep gulf between the disturbing reality in the storm-ravaged South and what was widely perceived to be a slow federal response detached from the desperation felt on the ground."
Stevenson implies Bush has all the criticism coming: "Until Friday, Mr. Bush had all but invited the torrent of criticism that he was out of touch with the scale of the human tragedy unfolding in Louisiana, often sounding off-key in the context of what may prove to be the worst natural disaster the nation has suffered."
For the full Stevenson, click here.
Bill Clinton Took Pork-Barrel Spending Out of FEMA?
Saturday's story from Eric Lipton and Scott Shane, "Leader of Federal Effort Feels the Heat," concentrates on embattled FEMA director Michael Brown, comparing FEMA under Bush unfavorably with the organization under Clinton.
"Hurricane Andrew, which struck South Florida in 1992, demonstrated that the federal government still had not sufficiently figured out how to respond smoothly, as thousands were initially left without shelter or water. The agency had a reputation for political patronage and pork barrel spending. It was with the appointment in 1993 of James Lee Witt, from Arkansas, that the agency began to earn respect. Mr. Clinton made FEMA a cabinet-level agency."
There's a less starry-eyed view of the politicization of Clinton-era FEMA in a 1997article by Jodie Allen in Slate.
For more from Lipton and Shame on FEMA, click here.
Bush's "Political Crisis" Helped Along By the Times
A Sunday front-page "political memo" from Adam Nagourney and Elisabeth Bumiller, "As White House Anxiety Grows, Bush Tries to Quell Political Crisis," again portrays the president as cynical politico scrambling to repair his image.
"Faced with one of the worst political crises of his administration, President Bush abruptly overhauled his September schedule on Saturday as the White House scrambled to gain control of a situation that Republicans said threatened to undermine Mr. Bush's second-term agenda and the party's long-term ambitions. President Bush delivered his weekly radio address from the Rose Garden of the White House on Saturday. In a sign of the mounting anxiety at the White House, Mr. Bush made a rare Saturday appearance in the Rose Garden before live television cameras to announce that he was dispatching additional active-duty troops to the Gulf Coast."
The Times again portrays Bush battling a perception of failure, a perception it and other media outlets have gone to great lengths to spread: "His speech came as analysts and some Republicans warned that the White House's response to the crisis in New Orleans, which has been widely seen as slow and ineffectual, could further undermine Mr. Bush's authority at a time when he was already under fire, endangering his Congressional agenda.The last-minute overhaul of the president's plans reflected what analysts and some Republicans said was a long-term threat to Mr. Bush's presidency created by the perception that the White House had failed to respond to the crisis."
The reporters chew on a discreditedchestnut, that the war in Iraq slowed down National Guard response: "But others said the damage could prove enduring, and they warned that the inevitable battery of official investigations into what went wrong could further erode support for the war in Iraq if it turned out that the deployment of National Guard units to Iraq had contributed to the slow response. They said any thought that memories of New Orleans will fade would be checked by gas prices that spiked as Louisiana refineries shut down, particularly given that there was already evidence that rising gas prices were hurting Mr. Bush's political standing."
The Times also takes time for the cynical political view: "Beyond that, some Republicans said the perception among some blacks that the White House had been slow to respond because so many victims were poor and African-American undercut what had been one of the primary initiatives of the new Republican chairman, Ken Mehlman: making an explicit appeal for support among black voters, a constituency that has traditionally been overwhelmingly Democratic."
For the full Bumiller-Nagourney, click here.
Todd Purdum's Schadenfreude
The tone of Monday's "news analysis" by Todd Purdum, "Chaotic Week Leaves Bush Team on Defensive," leaves columnist Michelle Malkin asking: "Is it just me, or does Todd Purdum's NYTimes piece on the Roberts nomination/Katrina/Iraq-starting with the Vietnam-all-over-again-lede-ooze with gloating and schadenfreude?"
It's not just her.
Here's Purdum bringing up Vietnam in the first sentence: "Perhaps not since Richard M. Nixon faced Vietnam-era tumult abroad and at home has an American president had to meet quite the combination of foreign war, domestic tribulations and political division that President Bush now confronts, from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf Coast to Capitol Hill."
Purdum sees a perfect storm welling against Bush's political prospects: "Each challenge is unique, but they are all interrelated. The chaos in New Orleans may have bumped bad news from Baghdad off the front pages for a few days, but only in favor of equally grim images from the home front and pointed questions about whether a National Guard sapped by repeated tours of active duty on foreign soil was as prepared as possible for a disaster here. The war, high gasoline prices and persistent, low-grade unease that good economic statistics have not left more Americans feeling secure had already taken a toll on Mr. Bush's job approval ratings. The wave of bipartisan criticism of his administration's handling of the hurricane may well constrict his options as he seeks a successor for Chief Justice Rehnquist. His presidency might not be on the level of peril faced by Lyndon B. Johnson, but his authority has come under challenge as never before."
Purdum later uses an unlabeled, ultraliberalhistorian to make his anti-Bush points for him: "'I think he's really undermined his credibility at this point, and it really saddles him with the kind of problems that Johnson and Nixon faced,' said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian and Johnson biographer. 'These crises are such a heavy burden, and they are so self-inflicted, except for the court vacancies, that if he is not very careful and tries to put across someone who is seen as an ultraconservative, he is going to touch off a conflagration in the Senate.'"
Purdum paints a potential Supreme Court nominee to replace the late William Rehnquist as a salve to the poor blacks Bush allegedly ignored in New Orleans: "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has drawn intense fire from some conservatives, who see him as insufficiently opposed to abortion. But his up-by-the-bootstraps background might now have extraordinary appeal for a president facing criticism that he failed to show adequate sensitivity to, or even particular initial awareness of, the plight of the overwhelmingly poor and minority population left behind in New Orleans when the storm and flooding struck."
More wishful thinking that the federal response will hurt Bush among blacks: "In the longer term, it is hard to know just what effect the criticism over Hurricane Katrina will have on Mr. Bush's fortunes, or his party's, in next year's midterm elections. It seems at least probable that, among many black Americans in particular, the administration's early stumbles will remain a raw spot long after the floodwaters have been drained and New Orleans's levees rebuilt."
For the full Purdum, click here.
How Dare Anyone Blame N.O. Officials for N.O. Flooding
Perhaps the most cynical anti-Bush story to appear in the Times from the long tragedy-filled holiday weekend came on Monday from Adam Nagourney and Anne Kornblut, "White House Enacts a Plan To Ease Political Damage."
They begin: "Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. 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."
The Times makes a pre-emptive strike, as if warning away anyone who would suggest that state and local officials had anything to do with the tragedy oferrors that engulfed New Orleans: "In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats. 'The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. 'The federal government comes in and supports those officials.' That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line."
For the secondtime the Times faults the Secretary of State for not being in D.C. while the water was in New Orleans: "[Condoleezza] Rice did not return to Washington until Thursday, after she was spotted at a Broadway show and shopping for shoes, an image that Republicans said buttressed the notion of a White House unconcerned with tragedy."
For more Nagourney-Kornblut, click here.
To discuss the Times' cynical anti-Bush bias, go to MRC's blog, NewsBusters. The direct address for the node is here.
Kanye West, Expert Commentator
The front page of Monday's "Storm and Crisis" section features a John Broder story, "Amid Criticism of Federal Efforts, Charges of Racism Are Lodged." Broder takes all the claims, no matter how bizarre, at face value.
Broder begins: "The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina became a rallying cry for African-American religious and political leaders here in President Bush's former hometown on Sunday, with pleas for charity mixed with a seething anger at the response to the crisis. Many blacks voiced suspicions that thousands of people were left to suffer and die in the floodwaters because they were, for the most part, poor and black."
Later Broder brings in two left-wing activists to take shots: "[Houston pastor I.V.] Hilliard's comments were echoed throughout the country over the weekend, as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Representative Maxine Waters of California made a trip to the convention center in New Orleans and the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People met with the governor of Louisiana and visited the emergency operations center in Baton Rouge."
The White House, of course, is portrayed as on the defensive: "Administration officials have tried over the last two days to repair the damage. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, met with civil rights leaders and members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House on Saturday to discuss aid efforts and accusations of racial indifference."
More credulous dictation for the left-wing duo: "At the New Orleans airport yesterday, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Waters, a California Democrat, offered bitter criticism of those who, they said, had failed them. 'This looks like the hull of a slave ship,' Mr. Jackson said as he reviewed the packed sidewalk where families had gathered, their belongings in torn trash bags."
Just when it couldn't get more cynical, there's Al Sharpton to blast the media for apparent racism: "There was also abundant criticism of the news media over the weekend. The Rev. Al Sharpton, after visiting the encampment of displaced Louisianans in the Houston Astrodome on Saturday, objected to the use of the word 'refugees' for the people who fled the hurricane.Many also took the news media to task for seeming to single out black people as looters in lawless New Orleans last week."
Notice that when it provides an anti-Bush angle, the Times highlights how almost everyone trapped in New Orleans is black. Yet the Times also swallows without comment Sharpton's criticism, not noting the obvious: That if everyone left in New Orleans is black, then of course the looters are going to be black as well.
Here's the cherry on top of the poisonous sundae of paranoia: "Kanye West, the rap star, dropped his prepared script at a televised benefit for storm victims on Friday night to say: 'I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food.' Mr. West also said, 'George Bush doesn't care about black people.'"
For the rest of Broder, click here.
Hurricane Katrina Proves John Edwards' "Two Americas" Correct?
Another Monday story that plays the race card, albeit more obliquely, comes from political reporter Jodi Wilgoren, "In Tale of Two Families, a Chasm Between Haves and Have-Nots."
While Wilgoren doesn't bring up race in her article, the prominent front-page photos encourage readers to plug in "white" and "black" for "have" and "have-not."
"Two families displaced by the same disaster, both facing uncertain futures as they moved forward on Saturday, but in completely divergent circumstances. Just as it ripped through levees to send water pouring through New Orleans, the storm cleaved a harsh chasm among the region's refugees, providing a stark portrait of the vast divide between America's haves and have-nots."
Wilgoren gives this shout-out for prescience to Kerry's vice presidential running mate: "John Edwards, the former senator whose presidential primary campaign last year was based on the theme that America is a country torn in two by race and class, sent an e-mail to supporters last week, saying that the hurricane's destruction exposed 'a harsher example of two Americas.'"
For the rest of Wilgoren, click here.
Katrina Making FOX Less Respectful of Bushies
Not even the Hurricane Katrina apocalypse can loosen the paper's obsession with the apparent conservative bias of Fox News. Monday, Here's how Alessandra Stanley opens her Monday "TV Watch" report, "Reporters Turn From Deference to Outrage": "When even Fox News will not give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld more than half the screen for his first appearance in the Hurricane Katrina disaster zone, it is clear that television is having a major mood swing."
Stanley ludicrously argues that Clinton had a rougher press than Bush: "It's the kind of combative coverage that Richard M. Nixon faced during Watergate, that Bill Clinton faced during his impeachment trial and that most presidents have endured sometime in their tenures. But ever since the Sept. 11 attacks, this president had been spared the harshest questioning - even with troops bogged down in Iraq, his White House news conferences have been so tame they are parodied by 'Saturday Night Live' and Jon Stewart."
Near the end she finally works in her opinion. No surprise: It's Bush's fault: "News reports alerted the world, and, it seems, an inattentive federal government, to the neglected victims in New Orleans."
For more Stanley, click here.
NYT Anti-Bush Push Not Yet Catching Hold of Public Opinion
Monday's Page One Katrina story, "After Failures, Officials Play Blame Game," written by Scott Shane, takes pains not to blame state and local officials for failures of planning and evacuation, even with pictures of submergedbuses in New Orleans being passed around the web.
"As the Bush administration tried to show a more forceful effort to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, government officials on Sunday escalated their criticism and sniping over who was to blame for the problems plaguing the initial response."
Shane brings in Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff to defend the locals, only for the local authorities to bash the feds: "Mr. Chertoff said he recognized that the local government's capacity to respond to the disaster was severely compromised by the hurricane and flood. 'What happened here was that essentially, the demolishment of that state and local infrastructure, and I think that really caused the cascading series of breakdowns,' he said. But Mayor Nagin said the root of the breakdown was the failure of the federal government to deliver relief supplies and personnel quickly."
Despite the Times' attempt to blame things on Bush, early indications show it may not be catching on with the public. An ABCpoll shows respondents are more likely to fault state/local officials for lack of preparation more than the federal government.
For more from the Times on the blame game, click here.