Is it OK to criticize the president again?

It's great that Bush rushed to Virginia Tech after 33 people were killed, but it's fair to question his slow-motion response to the mass deaths in New Orleans -- and Iraq.

Published April 18, 2007 4:39PM (EDT)

He's everybody's president, of course, but George W. Bush does seem to care more about some people's pain than others'.

That was the simple observation behind Tim Grieve's War Room post on Tuesday, comparing Bush's speedy visit to Blacksburg, Va., to mourn the Virginia Tech victims with his much slower pace wrapping up his 2005 vacation to visit New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It took Bush a day to visit Blacksburg and four days to visit the Gulf. I might have written about the contrast myself except I was in the thick of editing and assigning stories on the school-shooting tragedy. Seemed like a fair point to me.

But some readers were bothered by War Room's making a political point at a time of national sorrow. I even got yelled at on this blog for mentioning the Virginia Tech tragedy in a post on poor Alberto Gonzales Monday.

Now it's Wednesday. Can we criticize the president again?

Bush did a fine job at the memorial service Tuesday. His warm, regular-guy human decency shows up at times like this. You wonder where it goes the rest of the time, when he's presiding over a war that has already killed 3,300 Americans and getting ready to send more soldiers to Iraq. Bombs killed 127 more people in Baghdad today, on the heels of the attack on the Iraqi parliament building last week, the bombing of the historic Jadriya bridge, over the Tigris -- all this after we've been told the surge is working. What would things look like if it wasn't working?

I have no problem with the president visiting Virginia Tech and mourning with the community there. But communities are mourning all over the U.S. because of his incompetent prosecution of an unjust and unnecessary war. An exaggerated sense of decorum and deference to the president in the months after 9/11 helped get us into the Iraq mess, so it bothered me to see that impulse resurface in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy. That the wildly unpopular president did the right thing Tuesday can't make me forget about all the wrong things he has done the other 364 days of the year. We can mourn the Virginia Tech victims while also lamenting that we have a president who does indeed seem to care more about some people's tragedies than others'.

By Joan Walsh

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