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Contrast Between Bush Speech and GOP Talking Points on Katrina

Reported by Judy - August 29, 2006 -

George Bush, aware of polls showing two-thirds of the American people hold him responsible for the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, tried to take responsibility for that himself during a speech in New Orleans Tuesday (August 29, 2006), but Fox News' "Dayside" made sure fingers of blame were still pointed elsewhere.

Bush's speech on the one-year anniversary spilled over into "Dayside." And like his speech a year ago shortly after Katrina struck, it was uninspiring. He stumbled three times while trying to read one sentence quoting a woman who had returned to New Orleans, saying, "I thank God, I thank, God sent, I think God sent me to Catholic Charities." It was painful to watch.

The speech had clumsy historical references that don't sound anything like what George Bush would normally say, references to the city being rebuilt after fires destroyed its first wooden buildings, and to malaria epidemics.

One thing Bush's speech did not have was attacks on local officials. Rather, Bush tried to be conciliatory and to offer federal assistance. "We will stand with the people of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi until the job is done," he pledged. "A lot of work has been accomplished, and I congratulate the people here, but there’s more work to be done."

Bush's tone does not mean that Republicans have given up trying to shift the blame for Katrina from the federal government to local and state authorities. It only means that people other than George Bush are going to be carrying out that job, so that Bush can look above the fray.

"Dayside" obliged by bringing on two guests to rehash the question of responsiblity -- Ellis Henican, a Newsday columnist, and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.

Lowry obligingly shouldered the burden of carrying the Bush administration's water, calling state and local officials "corrupt" and "bungling" and faulting them for not having a plan to evacuate the city residents who had no means of getting out themselves.

Henican deflected the comments by saying he was "totally sick of all the finger pointing."

The GOP message was still getting through. A man in the audience complained that New Orleans residents should have shown "personal responsibility" and gotten out themselves like the people in Florida do (or so he claimed).

The Lowry-Henican debate was mostly a draw, but it's real purpose was to do Bush's dirty work -- blame Louisiana officials for the federal government's ineptitude while allowing Bush to look like a statesman for seeming to accept responsibility.