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September 23, 2005


Repair the political damage from Katrina, eh? Hmmm. I'd say that the incredibly inept evacuation of Houston-Galveston, by which many people may wind up sitting in their cars when Rita hits, could attenuate that repair just a tad. Just the fact that nobody thought to open up all (or most) incoming lanes of the freeway to stalled outgoing traffic for an entire 24 hours after the evacuation was ordered marks the emergency preparedness bosses in Texas (and maybe at FEMA) as clueless. What in the name of sweet Jesus were they thinking during all those hours as they watched the jam-packed, nearly motionless lanes right next to the empty lanes?


Evacuations of cities are easy. Simple stuff. Why couldn't Nagin just wave his hand and get it done? Oh, wait...

I'll play cynic. I think Bush begin to benefit from Katrina fatigue, and Dems who hope to run partially on the issue have maybe another week to use it. Rita response may well give many voters a "Bush is resolute" takeaway that is only compounded when sympathizers portray his administration as "under seige" this weekend in DC, but Bush still manages to "lead" (albeit from an underground bunker a thousnd miles away).

I'd love to see some numbers on how many Americans think Katrina recovery is a done deal, at least with respect to getting immediate aid to victims, because it's my impression that our fellow citizens mostly think things already have or shortly will return to normal. My local FOX morning news broadcast shows reporters live in the French Quarter (and let's be honest, most people think that's all there is to New Orleans), saying people are somewhat worried about the fringe effects of Rita, especially the heavy rain, now that the city has just dried out. Well, we all knew that the French Quarter was mostly spared from the flooding, but I don't think most people do. And I'm sure most people have no idea at all that there are vast swaths of Louisiana where people are still waiting for first assistance, nearly a month later, as Daily Kos diarist Barbara has been documenting.

The other disturbing development to watch is the one picked up by another Kos diarist, quaoar, who took special notice of a nugget in this WaPo report claiming a "building hostility toward New Orleans."

So, provided that thousands don't die in their cars, waiting for traffic to open up, I think Bush gets to score himself a win -- by which I mean he'll tell people he won, and they're write articles saying he did -- plus he gets an excuse to send billions to Texas, particularly to relatively well-to-do, white-ish people in Houston, which allows him to subtly "right the balance" of government largesse, in the minds of the base.

The TV is saying that the levees in NOLA have overtopped. They are now telling everyone wwho has not left Houston to stay put and hunker down. They are not saying where the central shelters are to avoid a convention center reprise. Still long traffic lines, and many people have used up their gasoline waiting in traffic jams. Not only were there those huge jams with the empty reverse lanes, but people piled into gas stations every which way and then no one could get out. And a bus full of elderly exploded on the freeway to Dallas because of a mechanical fire + oxygen bottles, and this further jammed the freeways.

I'd say a lot of smug Texans are rethinking how things got as they did in New Orleans. And they are talking about $4 a gallon gas on CNBC and scarce heating oil and nat gas this winter. That won't go over so well.

Meanwhile, Bush says that we can't withdraw from iraq because if we do, the terrorists will have won, but the pentagon can't tell where the $200 bil we've spent has gone because estimates are off by as much as 30% and much of the money was never tracked and is simply gone.

I don't think Bush can recover from these twin and interrelated problems., The money we needed to shore up the home front and have in reserve has all gone down the rathole in Iraq. People can see that. Those dots aren't hard to connect. And one more hurricane, perhaps on the Carolina Coast, or amybe Florida again, would just about finish things off.

We'll have to wait and see. My TV is showing a bar owner patiently hosing down his sidewalk in the French Quarter while a drunk sleeps it off on a bench outside, and proud Texan officeholders saying they've opened up the southbound lanes of the highway, fixed everything, and will be maintaining "law and order" in Houston no matter what happens.

By the way, since this is an open thread, did you all know that new CFO at the EPA is Lyons Gray, Boyden's cousin?

I'm so happy about that! It bodes so well!

Let's face it, the moderate Repubs and undecided voters are the ones that will make any difference for dems. I think most of these lean to the repubs ideas on business solutions to problems and less government programs. If you take any one issue and argue with them about how the Bushies and repubs have screwed things up, they will not listen on that one issue, instead favoring chance happenings or just bad luck as explanations (and maybe just blame it on Clinton). Hey, I know this because such interactions with these types are my everyday life!

Anyway, what does seem to work is a strategy to back away from specifics and ask a question about the total experience since 2000. Is everything that has happened and gone wrong, which is almost everything, due to bad luck???

On specific can still be used, however! Can you really believe this? Can the most powerful nation in the world really believe that a madman in a cave somewhere runs a worldwide terrorist network and the US cannot find him????? Really!!!

In summation, when you throw in the Harry Truman phrase that the buck stops with those in power, and that buck includes reponsibility for all things GOOD and BAD that happen on their watch, then the law of averages should balance out and lead to and overall clear competency trend. Do any moderate repubs and ?undecided voters really believe that using this paradigm, this country is in any way better off now than in 2000. Can this really be just bad luck or the delayed responsibility of Bill Clinton? I don't think so, and neither should they!

Just look at the polls and look at the pols. Remember, katrina has little to do with Bush's poor numbers, and Iraq and gas prices are both just stuck on bad.

Doing Rita 'well' is like taking an airline trip. When you arrive at your destination safe and sound, trip after trip, you get no points. You're supposed to do that. But the one time the landing gear doesn't go down, you remember that.

See the comments the pols are making. Bush is damaged goods, just like Kerry was a flip-flopper and Gore lied. This can not be undone. It doesn't even have to be true, but in this case, bush can look forward to bad noiews more than good news.

NG, the polls are cloearly showing Bush losing 10-12 points of support from his base (everyone else has already given up on him), especially because of the NOLA recovery plans. That's why he's at 40. For him to fall any further means his core has deserted him. No sign of that yet.

It's catch 22 for Bush. If Rita response is good, it points out a contrast to Katrina, undercutting whatever effect of their excuses. If Rita response is bad, it's more of the same.

There is nothing good at all in Rita. Get ready for the Bush photo ops showing how 'in command' he is, and expect no bounce whatsoever.

Frist is investigated for the sales of assets he had placed in a blind trust. I hope that phrase becomes synonymous with Republican leadership. Blind trust.

Kagro: The French Quarter (like the garden District) is on high ground. It never flooded. The Ninth Ward was under waist deep water 2 hours ago. The rich always live on high ground (except in Rio).

As for Rove, the point person for hurricane relief, he is attending a fundraiser in North Dakota while Beaumont-Port Arthur with all their refineries get slammed. That isn't going to go over well. Bush is toast.

Yes, I know that the French Quarter never flooded. The question is, does everybody else? The shot on my morning news was of the quentissential New Orleans: Bourbon Street. Looked practically inviting. Message: Mission Accomplished.

well, there's Rasmussen...

Conservatives are less than enthusiastic about the President's plan to spend $200 billion in federal money rebuilding New Orleans and surrounding areas. Just 35% of Americans now say that the President has done a good or an excellent job of responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis. That's down from 39% before the speech.

Bush's approval is at 45%, relatively low for rasmussen.

more Katrina polling can be found here. The odd thing is that for Bush, 46% approval or so would now be consiudered fabulous. But just about all the polls show a drop in approval after his speech, or no change.

Needless to say, Bush hasn't made his case. While it may not hurt him, disastrer isn't helping him at all. When gas prices go up after Rita, I suspect Bush will drop to 38-40 in every poll.

My suggestion is that the numbers will shortly, if this is not the case already, become entirely unhinged from progress (or lack of it) on the ground, no matter how it's measured.

Bush's numbers on the question of how he's performed on Katrina will never be linked to conditions in the parishes surrounding New Orleans now that there are no television cameras there. If Rita goes well enough, the cameras remain in the French Quarter, and McClellan tells the press that the mission's been accomplished, the numbers should go back up, even as conditions continue to deteriorate in Bogalusa.

This is a testable hypothesis over the next month or two. We now have a comparison baseline both for Bush's Katrina performance and the separate question of Bush's job ratings overall. I agree they are separate, and Bush's Katrina performance is likely to be better than his overall performance. I think Bush moves between 38-45 and doesn't top 45 again in anything but Rasmussen and Gallup. 45% becomes McClellan and Mehlman's new definition of wildly popular, but no one else's.

But all the photo-ops in an empty French Quarter won't change the picture of Bush that's already formed.

As to the Iraq side of the equation, Froomkin posts:

Bush may be in trouble here, because he's trying to marginalize a majority.

A recent Gallup Poll , for instance, found that 63 percent of Americans -- almost two out of three -- support the immediate partial or complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Fewer than one in three Americans support Bush's handling of the war.

The White House, so aware of the power of staying on message, can take some solace from the fact that the antiwar movement is deeply conflicted, lacks clear leadership, and is being kept at arm's length by many top Democrats.

And yet slowly but surely, at least one consistent theme is emerging from the silent majority. And it is a theme that has the potential to neutralize, if not upend, Bush's central message.

That theme: Staying doesn't make things better, it makes things worse.

"Staying doesn't make things better, it makes things worse." So as Bush and his minions keep talking about "staying the course," that silent majority is apt to see them increasingly as not just inept but detached from reality. (Welcome to our world, silent majority.)

Kagro X, that Republican congressman's Georgia constituents may be relaying their "building hostility toward New Orleans," but as the diarist noted, those constituents are mostly the folks the Southern strategy was designed for; my TV (which refuses to tune into Fox) has been showing me white Mississippians STILL wondering where FEMA is, and assorted Houstonians who dutifully went as instructed to the Greyhound station only to find that there were no more buses. And the evacuation stories are focusing on how badly it's going (I'm guessing much of this is hitting the TV as well):

>>...state and local disaster officials struggled with problems never envisioned in any evacuation plan, 100-mile-long traffic jams, dehydrated babies in stifling cars and hundreds of motorists who simply ran out of gasoline trying to flee on choked roads.


But there were also numerous examples of a sluggish response.

After Mayor White ordered mandatory evacuations, it took nearly 22 hours for officials to order that all lanes of Interstate 45, the city's main evacuation route, be used for traffic leaving Houston. It took an additional five hours for state transportation officials to execute the order.

In the case of U.S. 290, another major evacuation route, county officials said there were not enough law enforcement officials available to close feeder streets and safely manage one-way traffic.

It remains to be seen whether the traffic problems contributed to the bus explosion outside Dallas early Friday morning that killed at least 24 elderly evacuees from an assisted-living center in Houston. The bus had taken more than 14 hours to make what is usually a five-hour trip.<<


Of course, we know none of this is a Federal responsibility; it's all those corrupt, incompetent state and local officials in -- Texas.

Oh, and emptypockets: "blind trust" -- brilliant.

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