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The president was on vacation, all right--vacation from his duty
On Katrina, Bush fumbled the ball--and refused to pick it up.

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 9/18/2005

By RICHARD AMRHINE

WE HAVE BEEN told that President Bush is not entirely to blame for the poor response to the suffering and devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, there is plenty of blame to divvy up among the officials who are elected to plan ahead for troubled times.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency two days before the hurricane's arrival, then refused to acquiesce to federal control--though the president didn't need her OK. Charges that she and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had made inadequate preparations must be addressed.

However, when a widespread area is beset with the most destructive natural disaster in the nation's history, one might expect local and even state officials to be hamstrung and overwhelmed. That is why we have the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

That is also why we have a president, the commander in chief, who we count on to take charge and to feel our pain. He seemed to be trying to do that, finally, in a speech from New Orleans on Wednesday night.

Being the man at the top is a really hard job, of course, and President Bush was taking some vacation time three weeks ago in California as the hurricane approached the Gulf of Mexico coast. On Sunday night, Aug. 28, Katrina had reached Category 5 status with 165-mile-per-hour winds.

On Monday morning, Aug. 29, the storm was making landfall, swinging just east of New Orleans, as a still-mean Category 4. But President Bush had more presidential stuff to do in California, like make a speech about immigration issues out there.

Later Monday, as water began to flow over New Orleans' 17th Street Canal levee, the precursor to an actual breach, the president headed to Arizona to bring a birthday cake to Sen. John McCain, a fellow Republican who hasn't always been the president's biggest fan. After cake, President Bush visited an Arizona senior-citizen resort to discuss his Medicare plan.


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