George W. Bush's tour of Mississippi was, as the Washington Post reports this morning, "carefully scripted by the White House" to leave "little possibility of the president encountering much anger" over the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
But as the New York Times' Anne Kornblut reports -- hey, we're all about giving credit where credit is due -- it was pretty much impossible for the president to wipe away the devastation of the storm by "demonstrating empathy" for the people of the Gulf Coast.
"In an event with echoes of his prime-time speech in Jackson Square here last September, Mr. Bush spoke in a working-class neighborhood in Biloxi against a backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes," Kornblut writes. "But just a few feet away, outside the scene captured by the camera, stood gutted houses with wires dangling from ceilings. A tattered piece of crime-scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet sat on its side in the grass ...
"Nearby, along the ocean, ravaged antebellum homes and churches dotted the waterfront. The beach from Gulfport, Miss., to Biloxi was deserted. Debris hung from trees and motels stood shuttered. Blue tarpaulins still patched the roofs of most dwellings. Written in green spray paint on a fence around a home in Biloxi was 'You loot, I shoot.'"
Today, the president travels to New Orleans, where well under half of the residents have returned and where 66 percent of the public thinks most of federal hurricane relief funds have been "wasted" so far.