"Though every tributary the floodwaters take leads to the White House, Brinkley seems strangely reluctant to follow their currents. 'After Katrina, the Gulf South region -- and the United States as a whole -- needed compassion. What it got instead was the incompetence of George W. Bush, who acted as though he were disinterested in a natural disaster in which there was no enemy to be found ... Bush's slow response to the Great Deluge made Americans ask if he was a 'bunker' commander in chief ... relying too much on cautious paper pushers such as Brown and Chertoff for advice.' This criticism is curiously muted, coming as it does at about the midway point of the book rather than serving as the author's conclusion. Moreover, it's a feckless point, practically offering Bush supporters a side door to slip their man through: Bush was too concerned with the war on terrorism to effectively address a natural calamity. I know a few apologists who absolved Bush of all major blame, but I don't know anyone, much less friends and family on the Gulf Coast, who thinks that Bush's major problem was that he relied too much on advice from Brown or Chertoff or anyone else.
Even if much of the misery that followed in the wake of Katrina could have been prevented, what people wanted to see was the commander in chief be such, not to take advice from subordinates but to give them orders, instead of acting, in the words of Lewis Black, like 'someone watching a TV movie of the week and saying, 'Wow, look at all those goddamn special effects!'' Is it possible that Douglas Brinkley doesn't know that what Americans wanted to see was someone who said the buck stops here, not someone who didn't seem to know there was a buck in the first place? The last thing Americans wanted to hear after the levees broke was a series of ideological debates over whether primary responsibility for action fell on the state or federal government, yet this is exactly what B"
Thursday, June 29, 2006
In too deep | Salon Books: