Live-Slogging the Presidential Address
(With Amy Jenniges)
ELI 5:57 PM: Pre-speech show, and Paula Zahn is channeling Kayne West. She asks Howard Dean if he thinks the president doesn’t care about black people. Dean’s answer is essentially: Well, if you look at Bush’s policies, it’s hard to escape that conclusion.
ELI 5:59 PM: A graphic shows the president’s poll numbers. Four different polls show his job approval rating in the low 40s. I repeat: The man is drowning.
ELI 6:00 PM: Ah, hearing Bush mispronounce Lake Pontchartrain is a pleasure.
ELI 6:04 PM: The anchors have prepped me to be looking for a bullhorn moment. Not seeing one. The camera frame makes it look like the statue of a horse is trampling Bush’s head.
ELI 6:07 PM: Bush says it is impossible to imagine the United States without imagining New Orleans. He looks frightened, as if what’s really impossible is for him to imagine poll numbers this low.
AMY 6:08 PM: It’s really bothering me that he didn’t bother to button his top button.
AMY 6:10 PM: Man, the piped in audiences from shelters look like they don’t believe a word.
AMY 6:14 PM: He’s starting to smirk.
ELI 6:15 PM: My friend calls the toll-free number Bush has offered. He made it seem as if the federal government was offering this hotline, but really it’s run by the Red Cross.
AMY 6:18 PM: The urban homesteading act, a lottery for low income citizens, to get free federal property… That sounds greatBush’s first real ideabut how much surplus property can there really be? Moreover, why not do that nationwide for low income families, not just in the Gulf?
ELI 6:20 PM: Zoning laws, building codes, zzzz. He’s giving a list of things to do and things already done, but he’s not connecting. No sweeping vision, no big emotion. Nothing but hesitation in his eyes.
ELI 6:22 PM: Understatement of the evening: “As some of us saw on television, there’s also some deep, persistent poverty in this area as well.”
ELI 6:23 PM: Bush will take “the side of entrepreneurs” in the recovery effort (i.e., not workers, whose guarantee of a minimum wage he has waved because of the disaster).
ELI 6:24 PM: Ok, all Americans will be needed in the recovery effort, he says. Is this… a call for actual sacrifice? Nah. We just all need to feel a little more compassionate, he says.
AMY 6:24 PM: “The Armies of Compassion” sheesh.
AMY 6:25 PM: “Everyone should find their role, and do their part.” Everything he’s suggestingthat groups contact their counterparts in the Gulf region, and offer to pitch in, Americans have been doing. FOR FIFTEEN DAYS. Points like that just underscore how little he and his administration have done in the past two weeks.
ELI 6:25 PM: “I consider emergency planning to be a national security priority.” But only when my polls are down.
ELI 6:26 PM: On his failure: “I as president am responsible for the problem. And the solution.” Ouch. Having to say that in the fifth year of a presidency built around preparing the nation for catastrophe is pretty damning.
ELI 6:27 PM: But he stops short of calling for an independent investigation into the failures. Of course.
AMY 6:27 PM: “Americans have never left their destiny to the whims of nature.” We have, however, left our destiny to the whims of a bumbling idiot.
AMY 6:27 PM: “We were looking for a bullhorn moment. I don’t think we got it,” says Mark Whitaker on CNN. Moreover, “Why are we hearing it weeks after the event, rather than days?”