Failed leadership in action
Bush tries to salvage image as a leader
BY THOMAS M. DeFRANK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
WASHINGTON - President Bush has finally recognized that Katrina didn't just blow away lives and homes in heartbreaking proportions. The hurricane's ill winds also ravaged his core political asset.
"His strongest suit is where he took the hit," a close Bush counselor groaned before the speech. "He dented his image as a strong leader."
Last night's prime-time address was a belated attempt to salvage Bush's tall-in-the-saddle credentials dissipated by his inert early reaction to the storm. Close friends and political loyalists realize that is a daunting order for a President whose performance ratings have cratered despite a solid reelection victory just 10 months ago - and worsened since the devastation.
There's no question Bush himself now grasps the profound danger to his viability, not to mention his legacy, from Katrina's fallout. Within 24 hours, he did two things he hates: admitting a mistake and dumping subordinates.
Like his father, this President prizes loyalty over competence. But FEMA Director Michael Brown is suddenly history, and Bush has absorbed "full responsibility" for the federal relief shortfall - a mea culpa his aides believe has lanced the political boil and will trigger Americans' well-documented tendency toward forgiveness.
DeFrank has good sources in the WH. If this is what they think, they're crazy.
Bush didn't just fuck up, he undermined the reason for his presidency.
His "mea culpa" is way short of the assumption of responsibility required here. The GOP are using their old tacitcs when they no longer apply.
The movie Attack comes to mind.
Eddie Albert plays a cowardly officer who is given command because his father was somebody back home. The movie doesn't say, but I assume it was one of the National Guard divisions, I'd assume the 30th Infantry, which is from Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas, because of the Southern accents used.
Now, NG units have a problem of politically appointed officers. Which is fine in peacetime, but not in war.
So, this unit is trapped in a Belgian town and the SS is coming hard. Well, the Albert character starts to crack up. He starts to make bad decisions, then blame those around him. Despite the complaints of his platoon commanders, his battalion commander's direct orders, he finally fails and he's trapped in a unit with some of of his men. The Albert character, a coward through and through, wants to surrender, but since one of the men is Jewish, the rest of the men rather hide.
So finally, he starts to climb out of the basement they're hiding in, because he's a selfish coward. So finally one of the soldiers shoots him in the back. They all then shoot him so the soldier isn't courtmartialed for murder.
Now, in real life, Eddie Albert was a naval officer who ran his landing craft onto Tarawa's atoll to rescue wounded Marines several times under heavy fire.
But in this movie, he is not only a coward, but the kind of coward which makes your skin crawl.
When I saw Bush last night, that came to mind. Unwilling to sacrifice, unwilling to actually make hard decisions. A quote from George Orwell comes to mind.
High sentiments always win in the end. The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.
It's a shame George Bush doesn't agree with that.
posted by Steve @ 2:58:00 PM