I really hate to be the first person to “go there”, but I’m a firm believer in the notion that it’s during the tough times that you find out who your real friends are. Not to draw too fine a parallel or anything, but the President sure has a knack for skipping out on a crisis until other people have the situation under control. For example, there’s this largely forgotten bit of trivia from a couple days after 9/11:
Over now familiar refrains of “that’s unreal,” and “I can’t believe it,” and pregnant moans of “wow,” a spectacle of a different kind captured unblinking New Yorkers yesterday afternoon. Out of Manhattan’s Union Square came a welcome and commanding sight: former President Bill Clinton, surrounded by a growing mass of people.
. . .
Clinton, who was in Australia when New York and Washington, D.C., were attacked, said he had spent the previous 24 hours flying to New York on an Air Force plane.
. . .
Many said Clinton’s short appearance both magnified and made up for what they called President George W. Bush’s shortcomings during this crisis. The White House announced that the president would visit New York, for the first time, today.
“So far he has not been a comforting presence,” said Emily Vacchiano, 26, who lives in SoHo. “He has not conveyed compassion or strength. Just the sight of him [Clinton] cheered everyone up today.”
At the same time, the recently departed Peter Jennings was taking flack from the right-wing for justifiably asking “Where is the President of the United States?”. It’s not that anyone expected him to jump into the rubble and start pulling out bodies, but it would be nice for our leaders to actually…y’know, lead every once in a while.
With that situation, of course, you could make the argument that Bush was being held back by the Secret Service or that there was enough uncertainty to make the case that traveling to New York or Washington might put the President in danger. (Besides, why rush back when Giuliani is doing a better job for him?) But this is a different matter entirely. The full potential of the levee breaks in New Orleans has been known for almost 24 hours now (3-4 days if you count the warnings over the weekend), yet the President has still been mostly M.I.A. Curious about how he’s been spending his day??
Speaking to a crowd of sailors and Marines near San Diego, Bush described the Iraq war and World War II as crucial tests of American resolve in the face of evil. He also painted a grim picture of the consequences of failure, warning that Iraq could turn into an oil-rich haven for international terrorists.
. . .
The president’s visit to Naval Air Station North Island was part of a White House effort to shore up support for the war. Recent polls show widespread unease over the war. An Aug. 5-7 Gallup Poll, for example, found that 54 percent of Americans thought the war was a mistake. Still, most Americans said they opposed a quick withdrawal.
And this was all after the levees broke. Thousands of people are missing or dead in what’s being called one of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history, but the President is still worried about his poll numbers? Here’s one small example of what’s happening while the President tries to convince people that he’s FDR :
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said hundreds, if not thousands, of people may still be stuck on roofs and in attics, and so rescue boats were bypassing the dead.
“We’re not even dealing with dead bodies,” Nagin said. “They’re just pushing them on the side.”
And I haven’t even mentioned the declaration of martial law, the increased threat the flood will take as the waters become more polluted by toxic chemicals, the looming disease outbreak that will happen due to standing water and the rotting corpses of humans and animals, rampant looting, and the refugee situation in the Superdome. The news coming out of Louisiana has been growing steadily worse since last night and the country could really use a leader right now. Delaying your return to work for something as unimportant as a stump speech isn’t gonna cut it. I wonder if Rudy is doing anything today?