After watching the speech, I thought the president did what he needed do — and then some. His tone was exactly right and many of ideas right on the money. As I noted in my first post on the speech, I do have some concerns about what he said. Yet, of those conservatives pundits and bloggers I have read (or heard) since I first wrote, it seems I am one of the least enthusiastic about last night’s address. And I thought it was a pretty darn good speech. A very American speech. An optimistic, can-do speech.
Hugh Hewitt said the president’s “perfect pitch returned tonight” and his “looks backward and forward were on target.” On FoxNews, Dick Morris thought the president “rose to the occasion” and that the speech would help drive a turnaround in his poll numbers, particularly among women. Lorie Byrd “loved the religious references because they were beautiful and appropriate considering the wonderful work that has been done by faith-based organizations.”
Instead of focusing on the bickering and finger-pointing that have marked much of the media coverage these past two weeks, the president noted that this “was not a normal hurricane and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it.” Yet, instead of using this line as an explanation of the failures of local, state and federal governments to provide relief, he, as a true American, did not evade responsibility. Instead, he said we are capable of meeting the challenges ahead of us and offered a number of proposals to meet those challenges.
He hailed the efforts of rescue workers and noted the generosity of the American people. Importantly, he assured those “who question the future of the Crescent City” that “there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again.”
Some conservatives were upset that the president didn’t rebut the worst charges leveled against him — as I had hoped he would. Michelle Malkin quotes the Political Pit Bull who faults the president for “not addressing the race issue more bluntly:”
He should have unequivocally stated that the inadequate response had nothing to do with the skin color of Katrina’s victims. He should have identified the race-baiting that occurred in the wake of Katrina as what it is: a polarizing tactic being used by some to score political points at time when the country needs unity and leadership.
Instead, the president focused on what needed to be done. And therein lay the strength of the speech. I am concerned that he sounded at times like LBJ, seeking to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear in a new war on poverty.
But, I am delighted that he proposed some solutions, his Gulf Opportunity Zone and a new Urban Homesteading Act, which will make it easier for private enterprise and individual citizens to rebuild their own communities.
My greatest concern remains that he seeks greater federal authority in disaster relief. The president did not, as some conservatives (even this blogger) hoped, point out the failures at the local level and contrast the relief efforts in Louisiana to those in Mississippi. While many (primarily in the media and the minority party) harped on the slow pace of recovery in the Bayou State (and blamed it on the president), few noted any serious problems with the relief efforts in the Magnolia State. Indeed, many believe Haley Barbour, that state’s Republican governor, has raised his profile as a leader, much as my man for ’08, Rudy Giuliani, did in the wake of 9/11.
It is important to trust local officials to supervise the recovery in their jurisdictions. They know the area better and are the most accountable to the affected citizens. But, for major disasters, local officials will need the assistance of the federal government. And in some cases, where these officials aren’t up to the challenge, the federal government will have to step in.
Given the tone of the president’s speech, it would have been inappropriate for him to note the failings at the local level. But, last night, he took responsibility:
Four years after the frightening experience of September the 11th, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I, as President, am responsible for the problem, and for the solution. So I’ve ordered every Cabinet Secretary to participate in a comprehensive review of the government response to the hurricane. This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We’re going to review every action and make necessary changes, so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature, or act of evil men, that could threaten our people.
Rather than play the blame game, the president wants to know what went wrong in the aftermath of Katrina so we can be better prepared for disasters of this magnitude in the future as well as for terrorist attacks.
He focused not only on the scope of the disaster, but also on the size of the relief effort and spelled out how much had been done in such a short time. He highlighted one of the best qualities of our people, that “powerful American determination to clear the ruins and build better than before.” And like a true American, even while recognizing the enormity of the task ahead, the president made clear that we’re up to it.
In short, it was a good speech, with a message of hope, a plan of action and a vision of better days yet to come.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com