The White House announced this afternoon that George W. Bush will cut short his vacation so that he can oversee the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. As the Washington Post explains it, Bush’s advisors are “sensitive to the image of a president vacationing amid the hurricane crisis.”
That’s fair enough. When the death toll is climbing, when rescue teams are still searching for the missing, when homes are under water and without power — well, a certain amount of respect and common sense might suggest that it’s not a good time to be playing Cowboy President down in Crawford.
But isn’t it also fair to ask, what about Iraq? By our count, 71 Americans have been killed in Iraq since Bush arrived in Crawford on Aug. 2. The president didn’t return to Washington on Aug. 3, when 14 Marines were killed near Haditha. He didn’t return on Aug. 9, when five National Guardsmen and a soldier were killed in separate incidents. He didn’t return when Iraqi negotiators failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline and then failed to reach agreement on a draft constitution.
Instead, the president stayed in Crawford, bicycling with Lance Armstrong and avoiding Cindy Sheehan while making the occasional side trip to Utah, to Idaho, to an RV park in Arizona and finally to an Air Force Base in California. That’s where the president was this morning, commemorating the 60th anniversary of V-J Day and talking about the “sacrifice” — he used the word seven times — that Americans have always been willing to make in times of war.
And now the president will make his own sacrifice, albeit for Katrina, not Iraq. The president will squeeze in one more night at Crawford tonight, then he’ll fly back to Washington Wednesday. He’ll have spent 28 full days away from the White House, two short of the 30 he had planned.