On this morning's Today Katie Couric and Tim Russert looked like NFL linebackers diving for a loose ball as they piled on Bush from so many different directions. First up was the gas price angle:
Couric: "I know the President is calling on the American public to conserve gasoline by driving less and he even sent a memo to all federal agency and department heads saying, the federal government, quote, 'must lead by example and further contribute to the relief effort by reducing its own fuel use during this difficult time.' How much political pressure is the President under given these rising fuel costs?"
Russert: "Enormous, Katie. It's the one issue that cuts across all class and geographic lines and as we just heard in Alexis' report it's not only gasoline cost for this fall but come this winter particularly in the Midwest and Northeast there's expectations that fuel heating costs can go up as much as 70 percent. Enormous political pressure. Why? Those are the battleground, undecided states that Republicans must continue to control to retain and control both houses of Congress."
Couric: "Well other than a plea to conserve, Tim, what else can the President do in terms of taking concrete steps to deal with this issue?"
Playing on the 'Bush is too close to the oil industry' theme from earlier in the program Russert suggested Bush needed to get tough on the oil companies:
Russert: "Well he, he's trying to tap the oil reserve accounts but Katie, the, the ability to refine the oil just doesn't exist. There are some who are suggesting that there has to be a real jawboning of the oil industry, suggesting that they best be careful in terms of the level of their profits. The President said he won't tolerate gouging but I look for more and more pressure on the President to directly confront the oil industry."
Next angle to hit Bush from was Katrina:
Couric: "Meanwhile the President plans to tour the devastated hurricane region, specifically Beaumont and Port Charles, Texas today. It's his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast. He has been a ubiquitous presence in the aftermath of this most recent storm. Is that going to turn around some of these low approval ratings that surfaced following Katrina?"
And still one more Bush-bashing angle, Iraq:
Couric: "Meanwhile Tim you know while we've been covering these hurricanes 40 U.S. servicemen have died in Iraq. There were anti-war protests. Cindy Sheehan was arrested yesterday in Washington D.C. Where does Iraq fall in all of this? Has the administration lost focus and has the war lost support as a result of it being out of the headlines?"
[Footage of protestors with Sheehan and Rev. Jesse Jackson]
Russert: "A majority of the American people now believe going into Iraq was not worth the price we have paid. Katie, October 15th is a huge date. Iraqis will vote to either accept or reject a constitution. If they reject it two-thirds in three provinces would have to say no. It would set back the political process probably about a year. If it is passed Sunnis who are now registering in record numbers to vote, presumably against this, will feel disenfranchised and many fear would result in perhaps a growing inching towards a civil war. Iraq is a huge problem confronting this country and this President. Nearly 2000 Americans are dead and people are beginning to make comparisons between Iraq and hurricanes. How were they handled? Was there a level of competence and who's gonna bear the cost? And people overwhelmingly believed we should look inward more towards dealing with problems of the United States affected by the hurricanes than Iraq. For the President to maintain the current posture in Iraq he's gonna have to do enormous amount of attempts at trying to persuade the American people to stay the course because right now there's a lot of misgivings."
Russert: "Well Republicans certainly hope so, Katie, but many I talk to believe that a lot of the damage may be permanent. The President can get some points back but not all of it back. The difficulty is that the, initially the administration said that they had handled Katrina just fine but everyone could see what had happened there. Plus the comparison to way Rita has been treated is an indication, an affirmation, that the treatment of Katrina just wasn't right. Look for the President to try to have an image of being hands on throughout this whole crisis, hoping to be present when New Orleans is rebuilt but the imagery of people on roofs begging for help with no food and water, many Republicans are afraid is a lasting one."
Couric, returning to a theme David Gregory established earlier in the program: "And Tim what about this storm splurge or the spending spree that the administration has embarked upon in the post-Katrina disaster. Some see it as a way to restore political capital. I know there's hearings on the Hill today about the billions of dollars that are being spent so will there be accountability for this and all the question about non-compete bids and all the other things that are, that are coming out in the paper now?"