I was struck by that passage in Bush's memoir, "Decision Points." Bush, of course, ended up getting criticized for seemingly not "car[ing] about black people," so it's interesting to think that his delays — at least as he presents them now — had to do with the history of the South. But look closely as the 2 concerns that slowed Bush's imposition of federal authority in New Orleans:
1. Gender. Bush didn't like the image of the male pushing the female aside. He thought he'd be criticized for that.
2. "States' rights tensions." That's a strange way to evoke the history of racism in the south if you want to convey that you cared about the suffering of black people. "States' rights" was the cry of those who resisted federal efforts to advance integration. Bush was, in fact, being deferential to the Southern governor.
Bush, sensitive to potential criticism about sexism and states' rights, exercised restraint, which exposed him to criticism about race.
There was rapper Kanye West who told TV viewers: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Jesse Jackson compared the plight of some survivors with being trapped in the "hull of a slave ship".He feels bad about this criticism and is contemptuous of those who expressed it, but: 1. His own words indicate that he put racism third on a list of 3 things he was worried he'd be criticized for, and 2. Jackson and West were speaking emotionally at the time when the suffering was going on.
"Five years later, I can barely write these words without feeling disgusted. I am deeply insulted by the suggestion that we allowed American citizens to suffer because they were black... The more I thought about it, the angrier I felt. I was raised to believe that racism was one of the greatest evils in society," Bush writes. "I faced a lot of criticism as president. I didn't like hearing people claim I had lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was a racist, because of the response to Katrina, represented an all-time low. I told Laura at the time that it was the worst moment of my presidency. I feel the same way today."
Meanwhile, Kanye West cracked under pussycat questioning from Matt Lauer.