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Poll: Bush Not Taking Brunt of Katrina Criticism

by reposts
Note that this is the national opinion whereas almost all local people being interviewed are blaming Bush and the federal reposnse and saying that the state and local government did all they could and that FEMA even got in the way
Sept. 4, 2005 — Americans are broadly critical of government preparedness in the Hurricane Katrina disaster — but far fewer take George W. Bush personally to task for the problems, and public anger about the response is less widespread than some critics would suggest.

In an event that clearly has gripped the nation — 91 percent of Americans are paying close attention — hopefulness far outweighs discontent about the slow-starting rescue. And as in so many politically charged issues in this country, partisanship holds great sway in views of the president's performance.

The most critical views cross jurisdictions: Two-thirds in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say the federal government should have been better prepared to deal with a storm this size, and three-quarters say state and local governments in the affected areas likewise were insufficiently prepared.

Other evaluations are divided. Forty-six percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the crisis, while 47 percent disapprove. That compares poorly with Bush's 91 percent approval rating for his performance in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but it's far from the broad discontent expressed by critics of the initial days of the hurricane response. (It also almost exactly matches Bush's overall job approval rating, 45 percent, in an ABC/Post poll a week ago.)

Similarly, 48 percent give a positive rating to the federal government's response overall, compared with 51 percent who rate it negatively — another split view, not a broadly critical one.

When it gets to specifics, however, most ratings are worse: Majorities ranging from 56 to 79 percent express criticism of federal efforts at delivering food and water, evacuating displaced people, controlling looting and (especially) dealing with the price of gasoline. In just one specific area — conducting search and rescue operations — do most, 58 percent, give the government positive marks.

Partisanship, as noted, plays a huge role: Nearly three-quarters of Republicans approve of the president's performance, and two-thirds rate the government's overall response positively. About seven in 10 Democrats take the opposite view on both scores.

by blame

Mr. Chertoff's department has been harshly criticized for the federal failure to prepare adequately for a possible disaster that some emergency officials, and The Times Picayune of New Orleans, had anticipated with eerie precision years ago.

A proposal to detach the Federal Emergency Management Administration from Homeland Security is to be introduced this week in Congress. Some critics say that the Homeland Security takeover of FEMA added a harmful layer of bureaucracy.

Mr. Chertoff in turn seemed to cast some blame elsewhere. He said earlier that "our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor."

Today, Senator Landrieu, a Democrat whose father, Moon Landrieu, was once the mayor of New Orleans, dropped her earlier reserve about criticizing federal failings.

Mr. Bush had said that the enormousness of the crisis had "strained state and local capabilities."

Local authorities took this as a deeply unjustified criticism, and a distraught Ms. Landrieu said that if she heard any more criticism from federal officials, particularly about the evacuation of New Orleans, she might lose control.

"If one person criticizes them or says one more thing - including the president of the United States - he will hear from me," she said on the ABC program "This Week." "One more word about it after this show airs and I might likely have to punch him. Literally."

She also referred angrily to comments Mr. Bush had made Friday at the New Orleans airport about the fun he had had there in his younger days.

WASHINGTON -- Near the end of a stunning week consumed with 24-hour streaming images of New Orleans under water and homeless victims of Hurricane Katrina pleading for rescue, President Bush finally acknowledged what most Americans already had concluded about relief efforts: "The results are not acceptable."

The failure of federal, state and local authorities to adequately prepare for a Category 4 hurricane in a fabled city sitting below sea level -- and the tortoiselike response of federal forces that finally arrived with convoys of food and water at week's end -- raise questions that the Bush administration will be answering for weeks, maybe months, to come.

Congressional leaders returning from summer vacation -- Republican leaders -- already have called for hearings when the crisis subsides, a tacit acknowledgement of the potential political fallout if an angry public assigns blame for the debacle on the party in power in Washington.

As midterm congressional elections approach next year, Republican leaders are sensitive to any spinoff from the White House's problems. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., rushed Congress to approve the president's $10.5 billion aid bill for Katrina victims.

For a president who honed his credentials as a manager of unimaginable crisis in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, the sluggish response to Katrina by the Department of Homeland Security that was born of those terrorist assaults raises new questions about the nation's true preparedness for another catastrophe caused by forces less predictable than hurricanes, namely terrorists.

For Bush, whose popularity already had plummeted to the low point of his two terms before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast -- 40 percent job approval in the latest Gallup Poll -- the catastrophic act of nature also offered something that 9-11 had presented: a chance to take charge.

Instead, days of worsening chaos inside New Orleans, bracketed by shocking images of devastation along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, gave the nation an image that seemingly no one was in charge.

Now, as truckloads of food and water roll into New Orleans and busloads of storm victims roll out, Bush stands a chance of turning public opinion his way. Delivering his weekly radio address live from the White House on Saturday, Bush announced he was deploying more than 7,000 additional active-duty troops to the region. He comforted victims and praised relief workers.

But if he cannot turn public opinion his way, it would send a decidedly negative signal for the chances of other legislative accomplishments during his final term and perhaps could affect already shaky support for the war in Iraq.

For Bush, this means holding his administration to task for breakdowns in chains of command.

"People are going to want him to get out in front of the parade here and ask the hard questions, and if there were failings on the part of his administration to acknowledge them and address them," said David Axelrod, a Democratic political consultant.

Yet not everyone is willing to concede failure in a situation that defied immediate solutions.

"Overall, I think our government did about as good a job as it could possibly do under the conditions," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill. "The administration admitted that it could have done more, and the country has responded in a way that really distinguishes the American people."

So far, however, the reviews on how government responded are more sharply negative.

The failings of the federal response to this disaster point directly to a vast new bureaucracy that Bush created in the aftermath of Sept. 11, the Department of Homeland Security.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency long responsible for federal action after natural disasters, has been absorbed into Homeland Security. And FEMA's traditional role of emergency preparedness has been shifted to a new office within Homeland Security that has no director.

FEMA's fumbled handling of Hurricane Katrina has led some critics to question the overall capacity of Homeland Security to deal with catastrophe.

"I am surprised that FEMA has performed as slowly and apparently as ineptly as it has in Louisiana," said former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat.

"I think it's not only at the basic level that the buck does stop with the president," Graham said. "But also, he's now been in office five years, and he was the one who urged the adoption of the new department and the incorporation of FEMA into that department and has been overseeing the budgeting of all these homeland security activities. He has a very direct responsibility."

Every good political cleansing starts with a confession. And Bush was ready with that before leaving Washington on Friday for an aerial and ground-level tour of the Gulf Coast destruction with his comment that relief efforts to date were "unacceptable."
by blaming the victims
Julian Borger in Washington
Monday September 5, 2005
The Guardian

Bush administration officials yesterday blamed state and local officials for the delays in bringing relief to New Orleans, as George Bush struggled to fend off the most serious political crisis of his presidency.

His top officials continued to be pilloried on television talk shows by liberals and conservatives alike, but the White House began to show signs of an evolving strategy to prevent the relief fiasco from eclipsing the president's second term.

The outrage over the government's relief effort has hit Mr Bush at a time when he is already weakened by the gruelling war in Iraq. The threat is not only to his place in history; it could also cripple his second-term agenda, undermining his plans to privatise the social security system and to end inheritance tax.

Mr Bush also faces a much more difficult task in appointing an ideological conservative to take the supreme court seat of William Rehnquist, who died on Saturday.

The White House drew encouragement from an initial poll suggesting most Republican voters were sticking by him, and his supporters also pointed to Mr Bush's track record of recovering from mistakes. His initial response to the September 11 attacks was also sharply criticised. With that in mind, the first plank in the political recovery strategy has been to try to make up for lost time. On Saturday Mr Bush ordered 7,000 more troops to the Gulf coast.

As important as the content of the speech was its sombre tone. It was clear the White House realised that making a joke about his young hell-raising days in New Orleans in the course of a flying visit to the flooded city on Friday, was a mistake that reinforced allegations he had failed to take the disaster seriously enough.

The White House also announced yesterday that the president had cancelled public engagements, including a meeting with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao. Instead, he was due to return to the scene of the devastation.

The second element of the White House plan is to insist, in an echo of the September 11 attacks, that the scale of the disaster, the combination of a hurricane and the collapse of the levee system around New Orleans, could not have been foreseen.

Mr Bush was castigated for saying on Wednesday: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees". It was pointed out that there had been a string of investigations and reports in recent years which had predicted the disaster almost exactly.

Nevertheless, administration officials stuck to the line yesterday. In a string of television interviews, Michael Chertoff, the head of the homeland security department, called the situation an "ultra-catastrophe", as if the hurricane and flood were unrelated events. "That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight," he said.

The third element in the administration's political response has been to counter-attack against the blame directed at the federal authorities, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and its parent body, the homeland security department.

In his weekend radio address, Mr Bush implied many of the problems had been caused by lower levels of government. The scale of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."

Unnamed White House officials, quoted in the Washington Post, directed blame at the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, for being slow to call for outside help and to declare a state of emergency. Ms Blanco, meanwhile, resisted a federal attempt to take over control of local police and national guard units - an attempt some Louisiana officials saw as a political manoeuvre that would help blame the weak response in the first week on the state.

The depth of America's polarisation could prove a bulwark preventing Mr Bush's political support from collapsing altogether. A poll by the Washington Post and ABC News on Friday night, showed that, of those questioned, 46% approved of the way the president had handled the relief efforts while 47% disapproved.

The spotlight began to turn yesterday on Michael Brown, the head of Fema, who had minimal emergency management experience before joining the agency in 2001, and had spent the previous 10 years organising horse shows for the International Arabian Horse Association. Press reports claimed he had had to leave that job because of questions about his performance.,16441,1562882,00.html
by ttp
Too bad we cannot do an airdrop into the red states of this editorial cartoon. Instead we rely on IMCs to regularly get out the non-corporate news and opinion.
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