Bush on Katrina: Visionless Conservative Hypocrite?

Friday's "news analysis" by Richard Stevenson, "The President From 9/11 Has Yet to Reappear," follows in the slanted footsteps of his previous one. The text box reads: "Still looking for vision in the face of national calamity."

"Nine days after the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush stood before a joint session of Congress and rallied the nation to a new mission. On Thursday, nine days after it became apparent that New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush stood in an auditorium across the street from the White House and directed storm victims to a Web site and a toll-free telephone number. There are obvious differences between the situations. But while the first showed Mr. Bush capable of commanding the nation's attention, transcending partisanship and clearly articulating a set of goals, the second has left him groping to find his voice and set out a vision of how the government and the American people should respond."

Stevenson implies Bush is some kind of conservative hypocrite: "But as Thursday's performance made clear, he has remained small bore in addressing the crisis, casting himself more as a manager than a leader. And as someone who regularly cites the virtues of limited government, he has been somewhat out of character in unleashing rather than reining in the kinds of social welfare programs he urged the storm's victims to sign up for on Thursday….But most of the rest of his speech was a guide to government assistance programs, including Medicaid, assistance for needy families, food stamps, housing and job training, many of which he has tried to trim in the name of leaner government."

Stevenson then suggests that waiving a union-backed requirement in order to speed up relief indicates a lack of compassion: "Mr. Bush's effort to strike a compassionate tone were also complicated by his decision to waive a requirement that employers who receive federal government contracts related to the relief effort pay their workers the prevailing wages for that kind of work in the area it is being done. The White House said the change was made to save the government money. John J. Sweeney, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O, called it 'unbelievable and outrageous.'"

Speaking of compassion, Wal-Mart, long attacked in the Times for being anti-union, donated $15 million to Hurricane Katrina relief. We'll see if the AFL-CIO proves equally generous.

Go to TimesWatch for more coverage of bias in the New York Times.

Hurricane Katrina New York Times
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