By DICK MORRIS
September 7, 2005 -- Democrats and their allies
think they have at last found the perfect storm to sink the Bush presidency and,
possibly, shake the GOP domination in the Delta area. The media has constantly
harped on the political damage President Bush's belated response to the
hurricane disaster will cause.
Don't believe it. Yes, his reviews in the first
days after the tempest hit are clearly bad and he obviously failed to anticipate
the magnitude of the response the nation expected and the area needed — but
relief is a gift that keeps on giving.
Day after day after day, people will see a massive
flow of federal aid to the hard-hit area. While the storm's intensity and the
catastrophe it caused concentrated into a few days the horrific experiences of
the poor victims, the rebuilding process will take months and years. This
process, likely to become a theme for Bush's second term in the way 9/11
dominated his first one, will ultimately become a presidential strength.
Bush has no choice but to make an appropriate
effort — meaning a massive federal involvement. As the length and breadth of
this commitment becomes clear, Bush will find a new source of popularity.
Like all Americans, I am revolted at the total
failure of the government to anticipate and respond to the needs of its
citizens. The rape, murder, looting and psychological scars that flowed from
this public myopia are inexcusable. When FEMA saw the storm headed for New
Orleans, why didn't it send the trucks immediately on their way? Did it take a
genius to figure out that the region would lack for food, fuel and water? Why
didn't the feds force the issue and take a leadership role, instead of waiting
for the local officials to make a request? Why wasn't there an immediate airlift
of meals and water the minute the winds died down?
These are all questions that need answering. But
they will pale by comparison with the daily visuals of help arriving in ever
more massive quantities courtesy of the Bush administration.
All presidents look their best in mitigating
disaster. Their broad executive authority to respond transcends the normal
limits of checks and balances — and their aid is given out in front of cameras,
rather than in the anonymity of the mailbox where most cash transfers take
place. So as a result, the administration will find its relief efforts a strong
and growing plus.
Meanwhile, the members of Louisiana's congressional
delegation need to explain why they never used their considerable political
clout to get enough aid to strengthen the city's defenses against the
surrounding ocean to prevent the levee from breaking in the first place.
What did they use their political power for
instead? Why were they bought off with post offices and other token federal aid
when the main city in their state was so vulnerable?
Where was Sen. Mary Landrieu demanding aid? If this
swing-state senator, whose father was a mayor of New Orleans, had made clear to
her party's leadership and to the White House that her legislative course would
be determined by their response to this critical need for a new levee, she could
have exerted the pull needed to get the project under way.
Likewise, ex-Sen. John Breaux — who was probably
the single most influential senator during the Clinton years. In the '90s, he
could have weighed in successfully and gotten the capital support his state
Breaux and Landrieu have always been among the
handful of swing votes in the Senate. Where were they? They have a bit of
explaining to do as well.
not for Bush. A disaster like Katrina is just what a president needs to anchor
his second term and give him relevance and popularity far into his tenure. Not
that he wanted it. Not that he handled it well to begin with. Not that he didn't
mess it up at the start. But this story will have a happy ending for Bush — and,
we all hope, for the people of New Orleans.