By: Dave Astor
The Bush administration has received a torrent of bi-partisan criticism for its initial response to Hurricane Katrina. But most conservative columnists have continued to go fairly easy on George W. Bush during the past week, according to an E&P survey.
One of the few conservative commentators to aim some strong remarks at the president was Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel and Tribune Media Services (TMS). “Bush did fail to act swiftly and unequivocally,” she wrote in her column Wednesday. “When he did act, at least initially, it was without authority, without competence and — never more important — without apparent empathy. … [He] caused even supporters to cringe with every ill-chosen word. … He let slip the rarest of opportunities — that of saving human life and the nation’s pride. By his performance in this time of extreme stress, Bush may have revealed a truer self than we were meant to see.”
Parker did note that local and state officials deserved some blame, too.
Pat Buchanan, who has criticized Bush at times in the past, wrote last Friday about what the president would soon face. The Creators Syndicate columnist predicted the “attacks” on Bush would “run along these lines: First, he was out of touch in Crawford, not alert to what was coming — and, indeed, photographed fooling with a guitar the day the storm hit. Second, despite the investment of scores of billions, the Gulf Coast, on his watch, was unprepared for a Category 4 hurricane. Third, when the need arose for the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard to save the poor of those states, and defend lives and property after the storm, 7,000 Guardsmen were not on the Gulf of Mexico, but in the Persian Gulf. … And there are print and TV allegations that funds allocated to strengthen the levees were diverted or cut by the Bush administration.”
But many other conservative columnists criticized Bush mildly, if they criticized him at all. In some cases, they placed much of the blame on others for the post-hurricane situation.
“No doubt Mr. Bush could have thought of means more quickly to take center stage as dispenser of life and hope. Yet dramatic pauses at historical moments happen,” William F. Buckley Jr. of Universal Press Syndicate wrote in a Tuesday column. He devoted the rest of his piece to topics such as criticizing New York Times/New York Times News Service columnist Nicholas Kristof for criticizing Bush, discussing why some New Orleans residents didn’t leave the city, and listing the various ways the federal government eventually helped New Orleans after the hurricane.
Cal Thomas of TMS paraphrased former Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster, a Republican, as saying “the federal government must share some of the blame for not being properly prepared for the storm.” But the Wednesday column didn’t criticize Bush directly, and said corruption among local officials in New Orleans was partly to blame for the levees not being properly maintained.
Also writing Wednesday, Jonah Goldberg of TMS acknowledged “shortcomings” in the federal response to the hurricane, but focused much of his rhetorical fire on criticizing musician Kanye West for criticizing Bush.
David Brooks of The New York Times and New York Times News Service wrote Sunday that “nobody took control” in New Orleans. But he never mentioned Bush by name. In today’s column, he focused on how to rebuild the city.
Thomas Sowell of Creators wrote Tuesday about how crimes committed by some New Orleans residents after the hurricane illustrated “the moral devastation of our times.” He had nothing to say about Bush.
Mona Charen, in her Creators column of last Friday, also discussed the behavior of some New Orleans residents rather than the behavior of Bush.
And Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle and Creators devoted the first few paragraphs of her hurricane-related column Sunday to expressing exasperation with “Bush haters.”
Some conservative columnists have apparently not yet commented on the hurricane and the Bush administration’s response to it. For instance, Ann Coulter devoted the Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 installments of her weekly Universal feature to a two-part series lampooning Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). And George Will wrote this week in his Washington Post Writers Group newspaper column about William Rehnquist and the late Chief Justice’s possible successor, John Roberts.
Will did write about the hurricane in a column — titled “Leviathan in Louisiana” — for the Sept. 12 edition of Newsweek magazine. He mentioned “the raping, looting, and gunfire” in New Orleans, but did not discuss the way Bush and the federal government responded to Katrina.