September 15, 2005

Bush's Two Mistakes

Peggy Noonan is on top of her game today as she critiques the Bush White House handling of Katrina and looks toward the rest of the second term:

...the White House made two big mistakes. The first was not to see that New Orleans early on was becoming a locus of civil unrest. When an American city descends into lawlessness, and as in this case that lawlessness hampers or prevents the rescue of innocents, you send in the 82nd Airborne. You move your troops. You impose and sustain order. You protect life and property. Then you leave. That's what government is for. It's what Republicans are for. The White House didn't move quickly, and that was the failure from which all failure flowed. The administration was slow to see the size, scope, variations and implications of the disaster because it was not receiving and responding to reliable reports from military staff on the ground. Because they weren't there. When the administration moved, it moved, and well. But it took too long.

Second, lame gazing out the window is mere spin, not action. Soulful looks from the plane are spin. The White House was spinning when it should have been acting. I do not agree with the critique that Mr. Bush should have done a speech with a lot of "emoting." This is the kind of thing said by clever people who think everyone else is dumb. Bill Clinton felt everyone's pain, and that is remembered as a joke. What was Mr. Bush supposed to do, criticize the hurricane and make it feel bad? Say that the existence of bad weather is at odds with the American dream? Hurricanes come, disasters occur; don't talk, move. In this area the administration has gotten way too clever while at the same time becoming stupider...

...Mr. Bush is famously flinty. I sometimes think of what a friend said of him years ago: There are two misconceptions about Mr. Bush; one is that he's dumb, and the other is that he's sweet. He puts great emphasis on personal loyalty, and personal loyalty is important. But when that preference becomes a governing ethos, you wind up surrounded only by loyalists. His father wound up surrounded by tennis players. This doesn't help you govern...

...Mr. Bush probably needed a humbling experience. He just got one. May he absorb, understand, keep the helpful lessons, ignore the unhelpful ones, and waste no time being mad. And may he reach out to some old wise heads on the Democratic side who can give him a read on how his honest critics view him.

Posted by dan at September 15, 2005 11:31 PM