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The president was on vacation, all right--vacation from his duty page 3
On Katrina, Bush fumbled the ball--and refused to pick it up.

  Richard Amrhine's archive
  E-mail Richard Amrhine
Date published: 9/18/2005



En route to Washington on Wednesday, Air Force One took a detour to fly over the storm-ravaged area so the president could get a good look at the devastation and feel the region's pain--from 2,000 feet.

Finally, at 5 p.m., the president addressed the nation on Katrina from the Rose Garden, with his trademark vacant look. The New York Times described it this way: "Nothing about the president's demeanor--which seemed casual to the point of carelessness--suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis."

Thank goodness the president had one of his key lieutenants, soon-to-be-canned Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown, on the scene. On Wednesday evening Brown had this keen insight: "I must say, this storm is much, much bigger than anyone expected." A day later Brown said he had received "no reports of unrest."

The day after that, President Bush praised the FEMA director: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Well, I have a Brownie at my house--the Girl Scout kind--who had a better grasp of the situation than Michael Brown.

Scarier still is that Brown's boss, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was just as clueless: "I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water," he said on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, The Washington Post reported this presidential quote: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

The proper statement would have been, "I think everybody anticipated the breach of the levees--except me."

The president had previously slashed funding for levee improvements, and The Times-Picayune had reported in a highly publicized series about the threat a major storm would present to the levee system.

On Friday, five days after the storm, the president made his first visit to the hurricane-ravaged region.

It's not hard to see why the president is being criticized in the hurricane's aftermath. Some have charged that the slow response suggests President Bush doesn't care about black people. That's not fair. It's black people who are poor and vote Democratic that he doesn't appear to care about.

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