Bush Speaks Out On Katrina

Click here for reactions to the President’s speech

I’ll be liveblogging the Bush speech on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in just a few minutes. This speech is one of the more vital speeches that Bush will give. The major problems with the federal response to Hurricane Katrina have given Bush a major political black eye with the American people. Bush needs to explain clearly and simply what went wrong, why, and what will be done in the future.

Bush is in a difficult position. The liberal mainstream media wants to crucify him, and after multiple attempts to do it, the liberal media has finally found something that has a chance of sticking. However, Bush tends to do well with major addresses like that. He doesn’t have the slickness of Clinton or the oratory of Reagan, but he does have the common touch that helps him appeal to the American people in a way few politicians can.

President Bush needs to restore confidence in his leadership after the debacle of FEMAs major problems. With the massive and unabashed partisanship of the media, he knows that no matter what he’s going to get the blame for the media. He needs to show that he’s in charge, that the media’s constant attempts to turn this into a political football is counterproductive and petty, and that he is going to do as much as possible to fix the problem – even though the problems in New Orleans were a result of that city’s endemic corruption and failure to implement its own disaster plan.

Bush doesn’t need to bother with his critics. They’ve already made up their minds – he needs to reassure those who have been shaken in their support for him. That is difficult task, but Bush has an opportunity to rise above the petty partisan bickering and show the leadership that won him reelection last year.

8:02PM – The President begins. He notes the dichotomy of having such devastation here at home – Katrina was a shock to the American public, and one that will have an effect for some time.

He also talks of the courage and heroism of the rescuers – something we heard far too little of during the last few weeks of partisan acrimony.

8:05PM – President Bush pledges that we will rebuild New Orleans – I’m not quite sure if New Orleans will ever be the same, but he’s right – America without New Orleans is unimaginable.

8:07PM – Bush speaks to the refugees – telling them what to do, where to call, etc. This is good, but this is really something Bush should have done a few days ago when the problem was more immediate.

Congress has authorized more than $60 billion in aid. Great, but I’d like Bush ask Congress to tighten their belts. Every member of Congress should be asked to give up one project in their district – that $60 billion should go toward reconstruction, not pork. Sadly, Bush isn’t the type to demand fiscal discipline of Congress.

8:11PM – Bush is doing what he has to do – let people know that the government is doing its work. I like the fact that he’s stating that he’s not going to let the system be turned into a black hole for money. However, this kind of federal make-work action doesn’t necessarily result in economic stability. When the rebuilding is done, will the jobs merely go away? I’d love to see Bush announce that he will support the growth of new businesses – especially minority-owned businesses by declaring a moratorium of all taxes on small businesses in the affected area and doing whatever is necessary to spur sustainable economic growth for years to come.

8:15PM – Well, looks like he just went there. I didn’t read an advance copy of the speech, so apparently we’re in the same wavelength there. Good, this sort of thing will help not only rebuild New Orleans – but give it the chance to thrive for the future.

8:16PM – An Urban Homestead Act. Damn, that’s something I never thought of. Something about that strikes me as a particularly good and interesting idea. Home ownership helps to fight crime and grow peaceable and livable communities. I’m really liking that idea…

8:20PM – Bush is stressing the essential nature of detailed emergency planning. New Orleans utterly failed to respond to the hurricane and the flooding in an effective manner. FEMA isn’t the right agency to do first response – that is and always has been a local task. Florida’s hurricane planning is second to none – other states need to learn from their experience.

8:21PM – Bush states that the federal government needs to make a more effective response, and President Bush is personally taking responsibility for the problems – and for the solutions. The American people understand that partisan finger pointing is pointless – we need to fix the problems. Bush needs to stress that time and time again. This is something that should be above partisan acrimony, not another attempt to bring Bush down. If Bush can put himself above the fray it will help show his leadership.

8:23PM – Bush ends on a lyrical note, speaking of New Orleans funerals. A nice way of bringing this speech to a close.

Bush Speech Reaction

Bush needed to show that he’s in charge, has a plan, and is working to fix the problem. Bush did that tonight. There will inevitably be a mess of partisan attacks, but Bush simply has to put himself above the fray. There were some lyrical moments to the speech, especially in the ending. This speech wasn’t a home run, but it was a solid single.

I really like the idea of a new Homestead Act. This is an opportunity to not only rebuild the shattered city of New Orleans, but work to attack the root of the region’s endemic poverty. The idea of an urban Homestead Act is beyond brilliant – give the people an opportunity to take ownership of their communities. Ownership is one of the most powerful ways of building civil society. Rather than cramming people into projects, give them an opportunity to form a true community. This is one of those proposals that that stands a good chance of attracting people from all political spectrums. Of all the elements of this speech, that is the one that struck me the most. Bush is not only fighting the devastation of Katrina, but showing a new way of dealing with the problems of inner city poverty. Combining government works projects with a solid free-market plan to build civil society is a true example of “compassionate conservatism” – and that plan, while risky, has much promise.

Lorie Byrd reports that the reaction from the Katrina evacuees interviewed by ABC was quite positive.

(Editorial Note: I don’t see many instant reactions to this speech. So, leave your comments/trackbacks if you have any thoughts. Since everyone else is out, I’m going back to my DVD of Lost… More tomorrow…)

10 thoughts on “Bush Speaks Out On Katrina

  1. I liked the speech. Basically it amounted to “I care” and “spend spend spend”, but what else is there to do or say? Plus, he just comes off as a genuinely decent fellow. I think the more he speaks in public, the more that comes across.

  2. Didn’t watch it, though I agree with you on two points- the “Urban Homestead Act” is potentially a good idea, and an unusually pragmatic one to come out of the Bush administration; and if we’re going to rebuild the gulf coast, the money should come from cutting unnecessary pork-barrel programs elsewhere. Fat chance the latter will occur, though…

  3. Bush’s quiet enactment of a provision to waive prevailing wage laws for reconstruction efforts in New Orleans tells the real story on lessons he’s learned about “attacking the roots of the region’s endemic poverty.” In Bush’s America, the problem is not that there’s too much poverty. It’s that there’s too little.

  4. Indeed. Especially considering that Louisiana has some of the weakest labor laws in the country to begin with… waiving the prevailing wage laws won’t help any. Most of the folks I met down there either worked below minimum wage, or only made tips. At least the cost of living was low, paying only $200-250 a month for rent in the now flooded-out slums.

  5. Except that’s not what Bush did at all. Bush temporarily lifted the Davis-Bacon Act, which was designed during the Depression specifically to keep blacks from receiving federal construction contracts. It locks out a number of small contractors who can’t afford to pay the exorbitant wage requirements under the Act – anyone who so much as pounds a nail into a board has to be paid as though they were a journeyman carpenter – which means if you’re poor and black and don’t have the skills of a (usually white) skilled laborer, your firm doesn’t get the contract.

    The Davis-Bacon Act should have been repealed a long time ago. It doesn’t help minority contractors – it only serves to lock them out of federal contracts.

    It’s odd seeing liberals rush to the defense of a law specifically designed to keep blacks down…

  6. “Exorbinant wage requirements?” From what I read, that “exorbinant wage” was $9 an hour. Only a Republican could view $9 an hour in the year 2005 as exorbinant. Somehow, I’m guessing most of the Republicans proclaiming that wage exorbinant would be unlikely to work for that much themselves.

  7. For a common laborer, it’s $9.55 + $1.05 fringes. Which is more than many small minority-owned contractors can afford to pay. Which means that otherwise qualified minority contractors can’t get the contract, even if they pay $9.25/hour.

    In fact, even if that contractor pays common laborers $10/hour but doesn’t pay a plumber $21.55 + $5.70 fringes, they can’t get the contract. Which is ridiculous. You have to pay everyone at or above the required wages, which disproportionately hurts minorities.

    The Davis-Bacon Act was an explicitly racist piece of legislation designed to lock blacks out of federal contracts. It’s a relic of Jim Crow, and should be treated as such.

  8. You’re the first person I’ve ever heard describe Davis-Bacon as a calculated method of segregationism. Sounds like a serious case of political opportunism on your part in attempt to justify poverty wages.

    As for the premise that prevailing wage rates of less than $9.55 per hour are gonna provide some sort of salvation to minority-owned contractors, it doesn’t appear to be jiving with the real world, at least not yet. Halliburton and other of Bush’s peeps from the Lone Star State appear to sucking up a wildly disproportionate number of the reconstruction contracts. A local New Orleans NAACP representative responded to a request from federal officials to provide a list of black business owners in New Orleans, and as of a couple days, has heard no response. With this administration’s track record, laws that stand as “relics of Jim Crow” don’t appear necessary in efforts to suppress minorities.

    Whatever way you try to spin it, lifting prevailing wage rates under the premise that $9.55 per hour is an “exorbinant rate of pay” for reconstruction work will be a black eye for whatever fumes of “compassionate conservatism” this administration still has left in its PR engine. Any realistic assessment of lowering poverty rates in New Orleans says that allowing the rate of pay to be LESS post-Katrina than was allowed by law pre-Katrina is unlikely to be a winning formula. Only in the delusional world of the Republican mind does “attacking the roots of endemic poverty in the region” start with giving everybody a pay cut.

  9. You’re the first person I’ve ever heard describe Davis-Bacon as a calculated method of segregationism. Sounds like a serious case of political opportunism on your part in attempt to justify poverty wages.

    Then you don’t know the history of the Davis-Bacon Act. It was specifically designed to lock black laborers from moving North to work on federal contracts. Rep. Robert L. Bacon introduced the Act in the House on behalf of white union leaders who didn’t want to compete with cheaper black labor.

    Then again, liberals seem to have little compunction about putting their boots at the necks of poor black people, all the while convincing them it’s for their own good…

    And again, you can’t understand a simple argument. It isn’t a flat rate of $9.55 an hour. That’s only for unskilled general labor. Everyone has to meet the Davis-Bacon Act requirements. So you have to pay an electrician $28.00/hour+, a pipe fitter $22, etc. Even if you can only afford to pay your electrician $25.00/hour and your unskilled laborer $12/hour (well above the minimum), you’re out.

    So a company that pays general laborers better than the average put experienced workers less than the “prevailing wage” is out – which is another way of protecting union labor over the people in the region who could be working as general laborers.

    But then again, such complex economics doesn’t fit into a bumper-sticker sized sentence, so it’s clearly too complex for most Democrats.

  10. Licensed electricians and pipefitters were not living in poverty before Katrina, so I’m not suggesting they will be afterwards either, prevailing wage standards or not. However, it’s those “common laborers” you refer to who were living in poverty even when law required contractors to pay $9.55 per hour for their services. If one wants us to believe that they’re serious about “attacking the roots of the region’s endemic poverty,” their first step can’t very well be granting contractions the ability to pay them $6.55 per hour. No matter how fancy the wrapping paper you decorate this package in, the gift inside it still sucks.

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