George. W. Bush has said that he’ll “take responsibility” for whatever the federal government might have done wrong in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but he made it pretty clear today that he isn’t taking responsibility for the harm that resulted.
That part, it seems, is all God’s fault.
In a speech this morning at the National Cathedral in Washington, Bush said nothing about the government’s role in contributing to the suffering in New Orleans. Instead, he described the hurricane and the suffering in its wake as mystifying acts of a God whose “purposes are sometimes impossible to know here on Earth.”
“On this Day of Prayer and Remembrance, our nation remains in the shadow of a storm that departed two weeks ago,” Bush said. “We’re humbled by the vast and indifferent might of nature, and feel small beside its power.”
But what’s on Americans’ minds isn’t so much the humbling power of the storm as the bumbling response to it. Yes, many lost their lives in the “fury of the storm,” as Bush said today. But as the president and his people keep insisting, New Orleans “dodged a bullet” from Katrina itself. It’s what came next that caused the greater disaster: the breach of man-made levees that everyone knew weren’t up to the task and the slow response of a government that should have been.
Bush said that Americans will look “through prayer for ways to understand the arbitrary harm left by this storm.” It looks like they’ll have no other choice: With Republicans having killed a plan for an independent Katrina commission, there’s little hope that we’ll ever understand how the government’s failings led to the additional, not-so-arbitrary harm.