Despite the fact that millions of cable news viewers witnessed the Bush Administration’s abysmal performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the White House political team will soon begin a full-court press to rewrite the reality of what happened – and what didn’t – in New Orleans last week.
One way they’ll try to turn public opinion around is by smearing the news coverage as being relentlessly negative – a product of liberal bias. But they may have a harder time deploying this tactic this time than they usually do because several of their most reliably Rovable pundits have themselves gone off the reservation this time.
On Friday, New York Times rightwing columnist David Brooks cracked up over his disillusionment with the president on the News Hour:
[It] is a national humiliation to see bodies floating in a river for five days in a major American city … [People] feel lousy; people feel ashamed and part of that is because of the public presentation. In part that is because of the failure of Bush to understand immediately the shame people felt … Sitting up there on the airplane and looking out the window was terrible. And the three days of doing nothing, really, on Bush was terrible. And even today, I found myself, as you know, I support his politics quite often … [This] is how Mark Shields must feel looking at him, I’m angry at the guy and maybe it will pass for me. But a lot of people and a lot of Republicans are furious right now.
Former Gingrichite congressman from Florida Joe Scarborough, who hosts an hourlong, O’Reilly-lite show on MSNBC, went off book , calling the situation in the Gulf Coast region “nothing short of a national disgrace.”
Even Bill O’Reilly wasn’t happy with the president’s performance, although he manages to swipe at the looters when he said this on Thursday: “The country expects the government to control law-breaking in the hurricane zone, to provide food and shelter, and to prevent any person or company from exploiting this desperate situation.”
As we reported previously, Tony Blankley expressed his disappointment that the patented Bush photo ops staged to make the aristorcratic popinjay look like a he-man hadn’t gotten underway sooner:
We expected to see, many hours ago, the president we saw standing atop the ruin of the World Trade Center, rallying a dazed country to action. We’re pleased he finally caught a ride home from his vacation, but he risks losing the one trait his critics have never dented: His ability to lead, and be seen leading.
Pat Buchanan, the former Republican presidential candidate, MSNBC pundit and editor of The American Conservative, wrote last week:
First, he was out of touch in Crawford, not alert to what was coming – and, indeed, photographed fooling with a guitar the day the storm hit. Second, despite the investment of scores of billions, the Gulf Coast, on his watch, was unprepared for a Category 4 hurricane.
Third, when the need arose for the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard to save the poor of those states, and defend lives and property after the storm, 7,000 Guardsmen were not on the Gulf of Mexico, but in the Persian Gulf.
Tim Russert, who has tossed nothing but softballs at the Bush officials for the past five years, grilled Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff this morning, which was good to see. At one point Russert demanded to know the secretary or anyone on his staff had plans to resign in the wake of their poor performance last week. Chertoff, a lawyer and a slick partisan, just changed the subject.
And Chris Matthews, who gets spittle-slinging mad anytime the Clintons are mentioned, has expressed outrage on his show.