A big moment for Bush on Gulf Coast
President Bush heralded the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a visit to the Gulf Coast Monday, and Bush was scheduled to spend both Monday night and today in New Orleans. It's a visit that will be met -- with good reason -- with car...
President Bush heralded the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a visit to the Gulf Coast Monday, and Bush was scheduled to spend both Monday night and today in New Orleans. It's a visit that will be met -- with good reason -- with careful analysis by not just long-suffering residents of the region, but political pundits as well.
Bush's low approval ratings have been well documented, with one example being a 31-percent rating reported in USA Today in May. A recent Newsweek survey taken Aug. 24-25 puts Bush's approval rating at 36 percent (2 percent lower than its survey of two weeks earlier) and his disapproval mark at 56 percent.
While it's been trumpeted that growing opposition to the Iraq war has contributed to Bush's worsening poll numbers, memories of the mess surrounding last year's response to Katrina still linger. An August AP poll found two-thirds of Americans still disapprove of the president's handling of Katrina -- and that's before a flurry of television specials about the devastating storm began airing. Bush, it seems, needs to deliver a command performance this week to help not just his own case, but that of his party.
Simply visiting New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities, of course, in observance of Katrina's anniversary can't hurt. The president was making his 13th trip to the region since the storm (his first in three months), and his arrival in Mississippi on Monday was generally well-received. His reception in New Orleans, though, will almost undoubtedly be a different story, and it seems probable that Bush will bear the brunt -- in the coming analysis, anyway -- of criticism for a perceived lack of progress in rebuilding efforts, despite other failures at the state and local levels.
Bush, in essence, needs to the stay the course and reiterate the message of hope he has attempted to put forth thus far. New Orleans and other Gulf cities, after all, are only partway into a mammoth rebuilding effort. Bush's poll numbers may continue to be low, and the Republican-controlled Congress may continue to be imperiled, but it's not -- and never has been -- too late to step up, lend a helping hand and make an impact. After all, these are circumstances that truly warrant putting any type of partisanship aside.