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On Katrina, Bush fumbled the ball--and refused to pick it up.
By RICHARD AMRHINE
By 4 p.m. Monday, there was a bit of calm after the storm in New Orleans. Maybe the levees would hold, and the flooding would be minor. But there were reports already coming in that coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi had been wiped off the face of the earth. So the president returned to California to visit more seniors and once again pitch his Medicare plan.
After a big day of being president, and all that birthday cake, the president needed his sleep. Tuesday was going to be a very busy day.
First thing, at 11 a.m., he headed out to the U.S. Naval Air Station at Coronado--it's a delightful spot near San Diego, if you've never been there--to speak about "progress" in Iraq at a V-J Day commemoration.
During the same function, he was a-pickin' and a-grinnin' for a while with country singer Mark Willis, who presented the president with a custom-made guitar.
Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, the levees broke after all, and the city was filling with water. Mobs of looters were taking what they wanted and taking control of the city. Law enforcement was virtually nonexistent. It was so bad that cops were going AWOL--not that there's any excuse for that, considering that on Sept. 11, 2001, New York cops were running into the burning twin towers.
As Tuesday descended into Wednesday and then Thursday, tens of thousands of New Orleans residents were discovering that the Superdome, with holes in its roof and no power or air conditioning, was not exactly the safe haven they were counting on it to be. Rapes, robberies and a suicide were reported. No water or food was made available. The toilets quit working. The buses that were anticipated never showed up. Similar conditions were being reported at the New Orleans Convention Center, where thousands more were being herded and housed. Local government ceased functioning.
But Mr. President seemed oblivious to the magnitude of these events. He had decided sometime Tuesday that a task force to coordinate the hurricane response would be an excellent idea, and he would rush back to Washington to take charge.
Wednesday afternoon should be soon enough. His vacation was already being cut short.
So on Tuesday he flew from California to Crawford to savor his last night back at the ranch.