Monday, September 12, 2005

Too Little, Too Late

Evan Thomas in Newsweek writes a damning account of how our whining, petulant Dear Leader failed to react to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The problem is, Bush's work "habits" have been common knowledge to the press for years - in fact since Dubya was a video-game playing, exercising, 9-5 with a two-hour lunch governor of Texas. To write an expose now is just too damned little too late:

President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.


Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

The press are in a large part responsible for making Shrub president. They were charmed by his (passive aggressive) habit of giving them nicknames; they found him more accessible than the intellectual Al Gore; some of them, like the egregious Cokie Roberts, seem to have fallen head over heels in love with him. During the campaign they covered him warmly; when time came to report the Florida election fiasco, much of the press was missing in action. Since 9/11, they have largely given this lazy, stupid man a pass. To act surprised and write exposes now is pathetic. And too late. Too late for thousands of people, in New York and Washington, in Iraq, in the hurricane-affected zone, who would prefer to be alive.


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