Karl Rove has mobilized a major damage control operation for Hurricane Katrina -- one that will have George W. Bush returning to Mississippi and Louisiana Monday to score points he failed to make in his ham-fisted trip through the region Friday.
Maybe Rove will pull this one out as he has so many before, but early polling numbers suggest that the White House is in trouble this time. Bush's approval ratings were in the tank before Katrina struck, and a SurveyUSA poll shows that only 38 percent of the public approves of the way Bush is handling the response to the hurricane.
The people who responded to the SurveyUSA poll know what they've seen on television and read in their hometown newspapers. The editors at the New Orleans Times-Picayune know about the federal government's response to Katrina first hand. And in an open letter to the president, they're making it clear that they're none too impressed.
"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry," they write. "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. Thats to the governments shame. . . . It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why werent they evacuated out of the city immediately?"
The Times-Picayune editors say that "every official" at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, with Director Michael Brown first among them. "In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadnt known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, 'Weve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that theyve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.' Lies dont get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President. Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, 'Youre doing a heck of a job.'
"Thats unbelievable. There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.
"We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. Were no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued. No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldnt be reached. Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again. When you do, we will be the first to applaud."