Monday, September 05, 2005

The Real Rescue Effort

This will cover how to rescue George Bush's skin. The plan seems to be as follows:

1. Rewind the machines so as to make Bush look like he cares. Send him back to Louisiana on Monday, even if that stops all real rescue efforts for the duration.

2. Blame Louisiana governor Blanco for the ineptitude. She's a Democrat and a woman, so this is an excellent strategy. Find out later if she had any blame to share, actually.

3. Don't talk about the past. Talk about what is happening right now: "Look! All those military people are going into New Orleans! Isn't that wonderful!"

Or in slightly different words:

Mr. Bush is to return to Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday; his first visit, on Friday, left some Republicans cringing, in part because the president had little contact with residents left homeless.

Republicans said the administration's effort to stanch the damage had been helped by the fact that convoys of troops and supplies had begun to arrive by the time the administration officials turned up. All of those developments were covered closely on television.

In many ways, the unfolding public relations campaign reflects the style Mr. Rove has brought to the political campaigns he has run for Mr. Bush. For example, administration officials who went on television on Sunday were instructed to avoid getting drawn into exchanges about the problems of the past week, and to turn the discussion to what the government is doing now.

"We will have time to go back and do an after-action report, but the time right now is to look at what the enormous tasks ahead are," Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, said on "Meet the Press" on NBC.

One Republican with knowledge of the effort said that Mr. Rove had told administration officials not to respond to Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush's handling of the hurricane in the belief that the president was in a weak moment and that the administration should not appear to be seen now as being blatantly political. As with others in the party, this Republican would discuss the deliberations only on condition of anonymity because of keen White House sensitivity about how the administration and its strategy would be perceived.

In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.

This rescue will be run very competently. You will see. But it shouldn't work, because the hurricane of incompetence is still totally uncontained in Washington, D.C..