Here are the opening paragraphs:
WASHINGTON Almost two months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and a month after promising in a nationally televised speech to help rebuild the region "quickly," President Bush has settled on a cautious, piecemeal approach that even many members of his own party fear will stall reconstruction and sow economic disarray.With his approval ratings down in the 30's, with his inner circle under criminal investigation, with his Congressional leadership under indictment and/or investigation, with his nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy on the verge of being laughed off the national stage, Mr. Mission Accomplished finds himself at the mercy of the anti-regular folk wing of his own party. Apparently, even Bush finds this repugnant!
Bush has made highly publicized trips to Louisiana and Mississippi on average of once a week since the storm, but the administration has yet to introduce legislation for two of the three proposals the president highlighted during his September speech from New Orleans.
The result is something approaching paralysis, with some Republicans fearing impending chaos. Hell, even Richard Baker gets it:
But by wiping out whole communities, Katrina created problems that even some Republicans argue cannot be handled by individuals and market mechanisms alone.Baker has made one of a number of proposals for significant federal leadership in the rebuilding effort. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) have made a bi-partisan proposal along similar lines.
"Where once you had an operating society, now there's nothing no firetruck, no school, no grocery store to buy a loaf of bread," said Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.).
Such devastation creates a sort of chicken-and-egg problem, Baker said. "The question is, Who goes first?" If firefighters and police officers return to their communities first, they will have no equipment or food. If car dealers and retailers are the first, they will have no protection.
By offering tax breaks and encouraging local leaders to come up with rebuilding proposals, the White House implicitly hopes Gulf Coast residents solve the riddle themselves.
But Baker thinks that's unlikely.
Still, the rabid Republican ideologues are calling for Bush to make the Gulf Coast from Houston to Pensacola a social engineering lab where they can test their pet theories. In the meanwhile, recovery lags, businesses die, communities splinter and lives remain shattered.
As in immediate aftermath of Katrina and Rita, the Gulf Coast is being victimized by a failure of leadership at the federal level. This time, the blame cannot be placed on some ill-prepared and overwhelmed crony; instead, it falls on an ill-prepared and overwhelmed president.
But, standby for another Bush photo-op on the Gulf Coast this week! Those, at least, are flowing freely.