14 September 2005

- Taking the Medicine -

I'll admit that I appreciated very much that the president finally took some responsibility for the federal response to Katrina. I think it was the right thing for him to do. And even if he should have done it much earlier, he still did it. And that is worth acknowledging.

Neverthess, I couldn't help but be struck by how forced his acceptance of responsibility was. The buck sort of stops here. First, he couched it in very conditional terms. "To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." What an odd locution for a man who prides himself on talking straight. How about: "I don't care what happened at the state and local level—I'm sure we had mistakes up and down the line—but the federal government clearly didn't do its job right, I take responsibility for that, and you can be sure that I'll make the changes so that this doesn't happen again." That's a much stronger mea culpa and one that I think paradoxically enough would have put him in a mcuh better political position than the tepid one he delivered.

What I found exceptionally odd about the mea culpa, however, was not the wording but the way that Bush delivered it. You could see it in his face; you could hear it in his voice. He was taking his medicine because Momma Rove told him he had to. But just like a child he wasn't going to take it without letting everyone in the world know that he thought this was completely unfair.