Not since he sat in a Florida classroom as the World Trade Center burned a thousand miles away has President Bush faced a test quite like the one he returned to Washington to confront this afternoon.We all need to hope for Bush to succeed in this. But then we all need to hope for him to succeed in Iraq. As with Iraq, there will be hyenas howling at every mistake, who will drive the rest of us crazy by seeming as though they hate Bush so much that they love when things go badly. I realize they can't really think that way — can they? — but they do drive us crazy by seeming like they do.
After initially stumbling through that disorienting day almost exactly four years ago, Mr. Bush entered what many of his aides believe were the finest hours of his presidency. But unlike 2001, when Mr. Bush was freshly elected and there was little question that the response would include a military strike, Mr. Bush confronts this disaster with his political capital depleted by the war in Iraq....
"The great thing about this president is that he doesn't try to use tragedy to gain immediate attention for himself," said Bob Martinez, a former governor of Florida who has endured his share of hurricanes and other disasters. "He talks to those with knowledge, and then he acts."
But now, he said, "there needs to be a powerful message to the country to energize the help," a message Mr. Bush plans to amplify, his aides say, when he visits the stricken areas, probably Friday or Saturday. Mr. Martinez noted that "the risk is that there is sometimes a big disconnect between you when you speak and when bottles of water end up in people's hands."
That may be a more complicated problem in this disaster, veterans of such operations warn, than it was after 9/11. Mr. Allbaugh noted that for all the horror of that day, the immediate damage was confined to "16 acres in New York" and part of the Pentagon, and "here you have hundreds of thousands of square miles" of misery. And the problems in the region will vary tremendously, from caring for the newly homeless in New Orleans to wiped-out ports along the coast.
Here's the link to make a donation to the American Red Cross.
UPDATE: And, no, I didn't misspell "mistake" intentionally to see if I could make hyenas howl as an object lesson. I just tried to change "misstep" to "mistake" at the last minute. Sorry for the distraction!