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'I take responsibility' for response, Bush says
Houston Chronicle
Sept. 14, 2005,

WASHINGTON - President Bush took personal responsibility Tuesday for flaws in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina and planned a Thursday night address to the nation about the ruined region's recovery.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," he said during a news conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. "And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Political experts said Bush is moving to reassure the nation about hurricane relief effort and to limit political damage to his administration as his performance rating in national polls continues to fall.

Marshall Wittmann, a former legislative director of the Christian Coalition who is now with the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, said, "There are two recovery efforts going on at this time."

Bush, he said, "not only has to rebuild New Orleans but reconstitute his own image as a decisive leader."

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who advises the White House and congressional Republicans, said he expects the president to assure Americans that the government will complete the job without pork-barrel spending.

"This is a speech to reassure the country it is going to be OK. But we're not going to waste money and we will not be foolish," Norquist said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president will "talk to the American people about the recovery and the way forward on the longer-term rebuilding."

Experts said Bush, by acknowledging a degree of blame for the initial federal response to the disaster, appeared to be signaling an effort by the White House to revamp emergency response systems and to lay out a broad vision for rebuilding the Gulf region.

"He could propose something quite grand," said Stephen Hess, professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. "But in theory he is the party that doesn't believe in big government. It would not be well received by his base."

Some Republicans have already urged Bush to use the recovery effort to showcase conservative ideas rather than rely on traditional big-government Democratic programs, such as Medicaid and public housing.

"Why anybody would want to take pre-existing programs and make them bigger is beyond me. This requires outside-the-box thinking," said Michael Franc, vice president for government relations at the Heritage Foundation.

Franc said conservatives favor a rebuilding plan that would include tax incentives, public school vouchers, and business deregulation.

Democrats have said that the hurricane, which stranded mostly poor people in New Orleans, underscored the administration's lack of support for programs for the needy.

The president should abandon plans to cut Medicaid and other social programs, they said.

The sluggish response to the disaster appears to have set back Republican efforts to make inroads with African-American voters. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released this week showed that 72 percent of African-Americans believe the president doesn't care about black people.

Bush has strenuously denied that race played a role in the hurricane response.

Some political analysts said Bush needs to reassure Americans about his abilities to lead, a quality that had been one of his strong points with voters before the hurricane.

An ABC/Washington Post poll Tuesday found that half the respondents think of Bush as a strong leader, down 12 points since May.

As shown by Bush's news conference with the Iraqi president Tuesday, the preoccupation with Katrina has distracted the administration from its domestic and foreign policy agenda.

Consideration of issues such as Social Security and immigration could be delayed in Congress as lawmakers tackle issues related to Katrina.

Hess said that while the hurricane had dealt Bush a "severe blow," it also gave him an opportunity to unite the nation.

"This could define the last phase of his administration," Hess said.


Bush is taking responsibility because the polls say he must. Not the polls of most Americans, he doesn't care what we think. It's his base that's pissed at him and that scares the crap out of him.

The reason I posted this article is because of the insanity of "Stephen Hess, professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University." He says republicans don't believe in big government. I hope this man doesn't teach politics because he's clueless. In reality republicans passed a prescription Rx plan that will cost trillions-- without putting in place a mechanism to fund it. In other words, idiocy, not small government.

The GOP has already given us $2.2 trillion of new debt under Bush. Is that because they believe in small government? Prior to the Bush debt, Reagan was the record debt maker--over $1.6 trillion of debt. Reagan spent a lot of money to give us less government. How does one say republicans are for small government when most of our debt was created by the last three republican presidents (24% by Bush 2 alone)?

Democrats must focus their message on the issue of fixing things. Fixing the deficit, fixing FEMA, fixing the CIA, fixing everything. It's a simple message.