Sunday, August 27, 2006

Katrina: Puncturing the Bush Bubble

The bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina marked a sharp downturn in George Bush's political fortunes by cracking the illusion of competence, shaking his aura of leadership, and showing Bush as out of touch with ordinary Americans.
First, the debacle cracked the illusion of competence that Bush had built up as the first MBA president. It became clear that those in charge simply didn't understand what was going on as New Orleans was under water and thousands were stranded. As the crisis deepened, Bush offered the excuse that "no one anticipated the breach of the levees."
Unfortunately, claymation figure Mr. Bill of Saturday Night LIve fame, shown here stranded on his roof, had done just that in a featurette on the danger New Orleans faced in the case of a severe hurricane.
The spectacle of the commander in chief being showed up by the hapless Mr. Bill led me to start referring to George Bush as President Sluggo.
(By the way, Mr. Bill creator and New Orleans native Walter Williams has created a series of films on the struggles of his neighbors to rebuild their lives, all found at where else, www.mrbill.com.)
Second, it punctured his image as a resolute leader. Images of Bush at Ground Zero and strutting about on the aircraft carrier were replaced by President Sluggo peering out a window from Air Force One as he flew over the misery.
Third, it crystalized an image of Bush as out of touch with the priorities of most Americans. Doubts about him had been raised by his unpopular attempt to divert Social Security taxes to private accounts and the unprecendented federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. The perception of Bush as out of touch grew as the situation in Iraq continued to deteriorate despite upbeat assessments from the White House.
Taken together, these doubts particularly affected views of the war in Iraq. People began to see the incompetence of the occupation, with billions of dollars missing, and progress elusive. People began to see Bush's resoluteness as stubborness. And finally, people began to the war in Iraq as a mistake, particularly when Osama bin Laden is still at large nearly five years after 9/11.

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