"I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY"
PRESIDENTIAL APOLOGIES AND PROMISES. Last evening in his speech from Louisiana, President Bush did his best to assure the city of New Orleans, Gulf Coast communities, victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the nation that no expense would be spared to help all effected to recover. He also stated that a full investigation into tragic lapses in emergency response at all levels of government will occur. This follows his admission a day earlier that "I take responsibility" for Federal-level lapses. I'm not sure more forthcoming and clear declarations could be made at this point.
IT WILL TAKE TIME...AND ACCOUNTABILITY. This said, Mr. Bush and all who rush to defend he and his Administration must understand that while words soothe, only the fullness of compassionate and reconstructive action directed sensititively and justly over time will satisfy those who have lost so much and all whose confidence in government to effectively respond to such tragedies is thoroughly shaken...and all but gone. No wand of citizen's money (emphasize: citizen's money) can be waved to instantly heal these wounds. No assuring speech with a promise of better behavior can quickly put the wheels back on an Administration caught off guard, unprepared, and slow to respond.
ENDURE THE QUESTIONS. Instead of being irritated at repeated questions about what he called an "unacceptable" response and resistant to calls for full disclosure on the nature of current recovery and future rebuilding efforts, Mr. Bush and his Administration should understand that a posture of "just trust us to do the job" isn't selling very well right now. The lack of a competent initial response and an embarrassing lack of clear communication within Federal agencies and White House warrant close questions and clear answers. Reestablish trust by transparent, sincere, comprehensive action.
FOR THE BALANCE OF HIS TERM. It would be commendable, it seems to me, for Mr. Bush to spend the balance of his term ignoring his handlers, throwing political caution to the wind, and seeking to understand fully and respond comprehensively to what this tragedy has exposed. He will help his party's legislators to be reelected in the mid-term election next year best by hanging whatever he's meant by "conservative" and just become "compassionate." Focus fully on leaving a legacy that has helped our military and civilian disaster responders become excellent at saving lives in the first hours after a national tragedy. Focus fully on leaving a legacy that "gets it" regarding the nature of urban poverty and sets in motion a trajectory of uplift that touches every city and rural area of the nation.