TheQfactor
Wednesday, September 14
 


How Bush Blew It
Evan Thomas, Newsweek, Sept 19th Issue

Bureaucratic timidity. Bad phone lines. And a failure of imagination. Why the government was so slow to respond to catastrophe.


It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS.

The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday. This would give them a day to get back from their vacations and their staffs to work up some ideas about what to do in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans.

Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.



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
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Comments:
END THE WAR ON IRAQ!
BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW!

Justice for the People on the Gulf Coast
Join United for Peace and Justice for 3 Days of Action in Washington, D.C.
September 24-26, 2005
www.unitedforpeace.org

Sept 24-26 promises to be a huge, powerful expression of the mounting peace and justice sentiment in the country. The ongoing horrors of the war in Iraq and events in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have made this mobilization even more timely and important.

Cindy Sheehan and the Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour – NYC
Monday, Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m.
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St.

Bus Tickets Still Available from NYC- www.unitedforpeace.org/nycbuses Don’t miss this opportunity to join with hundreds of thousands of others to make your voice heard that there must be justice for the people of the Gulf Coast, that we must not squander resources and take lives in a war that should never have happened, but should commit ourselves to addressing the urgent human needs in the Gulf Coast and overcoming the racial and economic divide in this country. We will tell the White House and the Congress to Bring the Troops Home Now!

Buses leave and return on Saturday from all five boroughs. If you can stay through Monday, all the weekend’s activities will make a strong statement. We are still seeking many people to participate in the Grassroots Lobby Day and the Non-Violent Civil Disobedience at the White House.
 
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