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September 16, 2005

A Great Speech, but...
Posted by Michael Signer

The President's speech last night was one of the best I have heard him give.  It was elegant yet strong, compact yet memorable, and he evinced an emotional connection -- a seriousness and an empathy -- that was unfamiliar to me.  He seemed mature and poised, and grounded.  And what I appreciated most was the general intellectual honesty of the speech, its humility, and its can-do embrace of entrepreneurship -- an idea that could be applied not only to the people whom the President was addressing (the New Orleanians who hopefully will soon own homes and businesses for the first time in their lives) but to the President himself -- we need him to be an entrepreneur, a leader, for us. 

So, the question I want to ask is:

Why hasn't he made the same kind of speech about Iraq?

The parallels between the hurricane and Iraq are striking. 

In both, a lack of preparation and planning by the federal government approached gross negligence, and (in some sense) criminal liability. 

In both, the death tolls are likely to be in the low thousands -- low, compared with historical catastrophes like world wars or massive man-made disasters, but high, against the standard of avoidable disasters -- or, put another way, death by choice. 

In both, the conservative philosophy, which entails not only a dislike of big government, but a disrespect of governance itself -- of the art of managing the instruments of collective action -- has backfired so wildly and lavishly it's reminiscent of the guns in those old peacenik posters whose barrels have been twisted into knots -- being fired.

In both, the least well-off (in New Orleans, urban underclass African-Americans, and in the Iraq War, National Guard and Reserve families) have borne the brunt of poor policy and poor planning.

Finally, in both, the obvious choice facing the President has been between responsibility or spin -- between avoidance and an embrace of the burden.  In Iraq, he has consistently avoided treat ing the situation with the gravitas, humility, intellectual honesty, or constructive spirit we saw last night.

While he deserves praise for the speech last night, if the Administration follows through, in good faith, on its promises, he deserves equally heavy criticism for what it shows about Iraq.  While he elevated himself last night, the lantern he raised unintentionally illuminated the depths of his failures in Iraq. 


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(With the caveat that I'm writing this as I run between classes)


You have a good point, but miss something that is sort of the elephant in the room.

On Katrina, Bush can do what he did because the failures are obvious, and (in most estimations) occurred at all levels and on both sides of the partisan divide. He doesn't leave himself exposed to attack, because anything the Democrats say about his actions could more than likely be said about the actions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin.

On Iraq, that's not the case. There isn't the cover that there is with Katrina. Also, on some level, the problem is that with Katrina, the effects would hit strictly the American political scene; Furthermore, Bush got hounded by everybody and sundry for it, so Congressional Republicans are unlikely to be hurt.

With Iraq, if Bush admits failure or anything of the sort? The effects would hit every country that supported the US even for a short time; Meanwhile, Bush leaves himself (and Congressional Republicans) wide open to get that honesty thrown back in his (and their) face(s) during the 06 midterms.

The first stunning thing about the President's speech is that a conservative said that the federal government would be responsible for lifting people out of poverty. this means the Republican party would have to do two things. The first is a repudiation of Nixon's Southern Strategy which was based on the idea that the government was not doing anything for the lowermiddle class and poverty level white's whom had traditionaly supported the Democratic Party which was vehemently racist in terms of support for African Americans especially since Wilson became President. Two, a party that does not want to run social programs, except by dictating goals-No Child Left Behind, now is going to run them. the state and local governments of MS and AL are run by Republicans and LA is in play-Vittner replaced Breaux and Landrieu was the last Senate seat settled in the last election cycle.

The second thing was there was no attempt to explain how to pay for it not even reopening the coming budget years expenditures.

Three, where is the Federal Land that the government is going to "Homestead"? Is this the new version of 40 acres and a mule? I mean how are you going to build a new community where there is no infrastructure. Ask anyone whom has moved into a developement what happens in the next couple of years. You up taxes to pay for schools, libraries, fire and police stations, sewage systems et al.

Four is the President attempting to channel rap:
Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome. TIC :-)

Robert Martin

Bush has been utterly inadequate at anything but spin for 5 years plus.

He's been a poor speaker too.

So now for once, in a desperate political crisis that could affect the 2006 elections and his ability to get supreme court judges and who knows what else, finally he delivers a good speech.

Any other politician, you'd expect them to deliver a competent speech. It would be one of the requirements. But for Bush the bar is set so low that it's considered an achievement.

And you actually think he might carry out the noble sentiments he expressed? Which of Bush's promises has he kept? Homeland Security? Getting Bin Ladin? Avoiding nation-building? The only promises I've seen him keep are drasticly reducing taxes for rich people and appointing reactionary anti-abortion judges.

So now he makes a speech that John Kennedy might have made, and you think it means a change in policy?

I admire your optimism. After well over 4 years you're still digging. "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"

...i also believe that was the best speech written for bush in some time: kudos to the writer.

however, maybe i watched the wrong channel but all i saw was bush deliver a face-saving speech that made monetary promises that he may not be able to keep.

and, in the weirdest political move i've yet seen from this administration, the WH further isolated bush from, well, everyone, by cloistering him in the heart of a ruined city to give said speech: that doesn't evince empathy for me, just tone-deafness.

...and John's post is correct - bushco admitting that they mislead the nation into a war over the course of a year? wait...bushco admitting they made any mistake?

not for at least the next 3 years. after that, the tell-alls will start hitting the stores...

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