Well, the choreography was pretty impressive.
Bush, walking to the microphone, flanked by a floodlit cathedral and a statue of a Andrew Jackson on horseback. Wearing an open-collar blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves to symbolize his new role in the trenches. Giving out an 877 number. The night air seemed to loosen him up, making him less stiff than in his usual coat-and-tie Oval Office address.
The president was all about optimism for the future--and he only glancingly alluded to why the federal cavalry arrived so pathetically late. This was a night to hand out federal goodies (no mention of the budgetary impact or whether his generic call for sacrifice might include sacrificing any other programs, such as abolition of the estate tax for the ultra-rich).
Bush did devote a couple of sentences to talk about the problems of poverty and racial discrimination, two subjects he rarely addresses. But he quickly let that drop.
He proposed a low-tax Gulf Opportunity Zone--but why has he never submitted such a plan for other blighted urban areas?
Still, last night's speech was not about programmatic details so much as projecting an image of compassionate leadership.
Four years after 9/11, Bush said, Americans have the right to expect a better disaster response. Ab-so-lutely! But what has the homeland security bureaucracy been doing since then?
Bush named no one to head this biggest-reconstruction-in-history job. He said he'd cooperate with a congressional inquiry--controlled by Republicans--but made no mention of calls for an independent commission.
Click on Kurz to read a summary of how the speech was received in the media.
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