MSNBC: Katrina a ‘Stain’ on Bush Presidency ‘He Could Never Recover From’

MSNBC hosts on Friday jumped at the chance to bash former President George W. Bush over his handling of Hurricane Katrina on the 10th anniversary of the storm that ravaged the gulf coast. On NewsNation, host Tamron Hall proclaimed: “Many have said, including writer Douglas Brinkley and others, that this was the stain on his presidency that he could never recover from.”

Hall’s declaration came minutes before President Bush delivered a speech at a rebuilt New Orleans school. MSNBC contributor Trymaine Lee agreed: “Oh, that's right. When you think about the optics of those days 10 years ago when this city was on its knees...and you have this picture of President Bush flying over [in Air Force One], for many people it spoke to the distance between the people and government.”

Immediately following Bush’s remarks, Hall turned to NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray and observed: “...when you hear ‘George Bush, Katrina, New Orleans,’ you and I both know the images and the things that pop up in even the most balanced of minds here.”

Murray proceeded to list all the problems of Bush’s second term:

...the Bush administration badly handled the Katrina Hurricane initially, whether it was optics or actual work in the bureaucracy, they just totally botched things. But that said, after it became a full-fledged crisis politically, you know and humanitarianally, the Bush administration did decide to roll up its sleeves, put money, do things. Of course politically so much damage was done from that initial thing.

And it's also worth remembering just how bad that year of 2005 was for George W. Bush after winning reelection the year before. You had Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration's push for privatizing Social Security, which didn't pan out, and then of course the Iraq war, which was just the biggest problem that administration was dealing with at the time.

Hall then seamlessly moved to tout difficulties for Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign: “Which brings us now to another Bush running for White House, not doing great in the polls....on the campaign billboards and flyers, it's just ‘Jeb!’ Many saw that as an attempt to move away from the name Bush because of the things you outlined in the second term of his brother.”

After Hall cited liberal presidential historian Douglas Brinkley in the 11 a.m. ET hour, fill-in host Luke Russert interviewed Brinkley in the 12 p.m. ET hour and suggested conservative principles of limited government were to blame for the Katrina aftermath: “Do you think in the historical sense it showed the limitations of government when government is run by people who do not like government?”

Brinkley responded: “Absolutely. You know, Homeland Security was created and FEMA was dumped like an orphan agency into Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. It was seen as Jimmy Carter feel-good agency. And so FEMA was a zero, they failed terribly here.”

On Thursday, The New York Post reported that MSNBC had scaled back its Katrina coverage in order to avoid drawing attention to ex-NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams inventing unsubstantiated stories about his experience covering the disaster.

Here are excerpts of Hall’s August 28 coverage on NewsNation:

11:24 AM ET

TAMRON HALL: Developing now, former President George W. Bush is in New Orleans right now to hail the city's recovery 10 years after it was left devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He is about to speak at Warren Easton High School. The former president, as you see there, accompanied there by Laura Bush, whose library foundation helped rebuild what is the oldest public school in the great city of New Orleans.

The former president himself has admitted his administration's initial handling of the disaster reflected badly on his presidency. Just yesterday, President Obama visited New Orleans, and he praised the resilience of those who live there and who have helped the city bounce back.

BARACK OBAMA: We came to realize that what started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look out for its own citizens. Because of you, the people of New Orleans, working together, this city is moving in the right direction, and I have never been more confident that together we will get to where we need to go. You inspire me.

HALL: New Orleans suffered the worst of Katrina's devastation when the levee system failed and 80% of New Orleans was flooded for weeks. So what is being done to help ensure that does not happen again? MSNBC's Trymaine Lee shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Katrina as part of the team at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the newspaper he worked at then. And Trymaine joins us now from the beautiful city of New Orleans.

And Trymaine, we're keeping an eye on this event with George W. Bush. Obviously when you talk about New Orleans and you mention the former president, strong reactions from a number of people. It was in his book, Decision Points, that he referred to a post-Katrina flyover, that now infamous photo of him flying over in Air Force One, as a “huge mistake.” But he wouldn't say whether it was the event that damaged his presidency more than anything else. Many have said, including writer Douglas Brinkley and others, that this was the stain on his presidency that he could never recover from. But here he is, celebrating the resiliency of the city.

TRYMAINE LEE: Oh, that's right. When you think about the optics of those days 10 years ago when this city was on its knees and there was a very real concern that the city may never return, and you have this picture of President Bush flying over, for many people it spoke to the distance between the people and government. And as President Obama said yesterday, while this was a disaster by all means, it was also a man-made disaster and there was a failure of government to protect its people.         

(...)

HALL: President George Bush saying the darkness has been lifted out of New Orleans as a result of what he says is the school reform that's taken place in that city. Referred to New Orleans as a beacon of school reform and says that a decade of reform has produced one of the best school systems, as it is focused on charter schools. In fact, the President citing the number 9 out of 10 public school students attend a charter school.

Let me bring in NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray. Mark, we’ll talk about what’s happening, of course, with Hillary Clinton and the events playing out in Minnesota. But first here, again, when you hear “George Bush, Katrina, New Orleans,” you and I both know the images and the things that pop up in even the most balanced of minds here. But today he is focusing on school reform and what he believes is the good that came out of so much bad.

MARK MURRAY: Yeah, Tamron, these two things can actually be true. That the Bush administration badly handled the Katrina Hurricane initially, whether it was optics or actual work in the bureaucracy, they just totally botched things. But that said, after it became a full-fledged crisis politically, you know and humanitarianally, the Bush administration did decide to roll up its sleeves, put money, do things. Of course politically so much damage was done from that initial thing.

And it's also worth remembering just how bad that year of 2005 was for George W. Bush after winning reelection the year before. You had Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration's push for privatizing Social Security, which didn't pan out, and then of course the Iraq war, which was just the biggest problem that administration was dealing with at the time.

HALL: Which brings us now to another Bush running for White House, not doing great in the polls. It was interesting this morning on the Today show, we showed the Quinnipiac – the air cloud of the things that come to mind with each of the candidates. And with Jeb Bush the first thing was his last name, Bush. And as Donald Trump pointed out, on the campaign billboards and flyers, it's just "Jeb!" Many saw that as an attempt to move away from the name Bush because of the things you outlined in the second term of his brother.

MURRAY: Yeah, that’s always been one of Jeb Bush’s biggest challenges. And there are many Republicans who believe that if it is a generic Clinton versus Bush election, that that's an election that Republicans just can't win.

(...)

NB Daily Hurricane Katrina Conservatives & Republicans MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports NewsNation Video George W. Bush Tamron Hall Luke Russert Douglas Brinkley

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