September 09, 2005

Why Democratic Efforts to Blame Bush Have Failed to Turn Public Opinion Against Bush

The polls have shown that a majority of the American public is not swallowing the Democratic talking point that President Bush is to blame for the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Byron York of The Hill has written an interesting column on why the Democratic efforts to blame Bush have failed:

And why has the public, at least as its opinion was expressed in two polls, shown such common sense when some of Bush’s critics have gone over the top? There are three reasons.

First, everyone saw that Katrina was an unusually powerful — historically powerful — storm that just happened to hit perhaps the nation’s most vulnerable hurricane target. Ninety-three percent of respondents in the Gallup poll said it was the worst natural disaster in the United States in their lifetime. They realized instinctively that it would have been impossible to get everyone out of New Orleans as the storm approached.

Second, people saw the Louisiana state leadership — specifically Gov. Kathleen Blanco — wringing hands and talking about how overwhelming it all was.“It’s just totally overwhelming,” Blanco said Aug. 30, as the full extent of the damage became known. “This whole situation is totally overwhelming,” she said the next day. Blanco — whose political style relies on appointing commissions, studying problems and taking a long time to make decisions — did not exactly inspire confidence as a leader in a crisis.

Third, people saw New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sputtering about how “pissed off” he was that help had not come to his city quickly enough — even though he had not followed the detailed New Orleans evacuation plan. “Excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed,” Nagin said Sept. 1. “I am pissed,” he said later. “I am absolutely pissed off.” Again, not exactly the portrait of a leader in a crisis.

People put all those factors together and came up with a balanced scorecard. They could see that Bush didn’t appear to take the hurricane seriously in the beginning — why did he stay in Crawford for two days after Katrina struck? — and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was slow off the mark.

But they could also see what was happening in New Orleans, and in Baton Rouge. So they apportioned the blame accordingly.

Now come the investigations. Whoever conducts them, they will, after months of studying, interviewing witnesses and recreating events, most likely come to the same conclusion that the public has reached in just a few days.

Yes, everybody should have done a better job. But the effort to find a single scapegoat — preferably one whose name is George W. Bush — just won’t succeed.

I agree. There is much "blame" to be spread around - including the Bush administration.

Quite honestly, if I were in charge of the Democratic Party, however, I would not be pushing to blame Bush for the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I would not be demanding investigations and Congressional hearings. Such a strategy looks like nothing more than political opportunism.

More importantly, however, the two local officials, who failed most miserably in managing the evacuation and local relief operations, are Democrats. If I am a Democrat, do I really want to draw the public's attention to Governor Blanco's and Mayor Nagin's performance?? Anyone, who has any experience in politics, would tell you that the first thing that the Republicans will do in defending President Bush is to draw attention to their utter failure to evacuate New Orleans in time, conduct local relief operations and keep order. The Republicans will focus on the Governor's failure to mobilize the Louisiana National Guard, the Mayor's failure to follow the existing emergency plans, the Mayor's failure to utilize public transportation to evacuate citizens, the state representatives diversion of funds earmarked for the levies, etc.

With such poor peformances by Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, the Democrats should have immediately advocated national unity in dealing with the tragedy. It would have given them the opportunity to avoid heated criticism of these two Democratic public officials or, at the very least, it would allow the Democrats to portray any criticism or requests for investigations into their performance as vicious partisanship by their political opponents.

While the Democrat-requested investigations may reveal legitimate reasons to criticize President Bush and his slow response, any political damage to President Bush will be minimal and short-lived(as the polls now suggest). However, the amount of attention that will be paid to the poor performance by Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin will be tremendous and will likely overshadow the legitimate criticism of the Bush administration's slow response. The public will largely associate the many disastrous failures of post-Hurricane Katrina with two inept Democratic officials. Is that really what the Democrats want?

I honestly believe that the Democrats are so blinded by their hatred of Bush and desire to smear his presidency that they have failed to think this one through.

This cartoon from Chris Muir is so appropriate:

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