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September 24, 2005

The Weeks After New Orleans: A Presidential Retrospective (#4)



Hurricane Rita Approaches Landfall

September 23rd, 2004

Slightly more than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina lays waste to New Orleans, a new hurricane threatens the Gulf Coast.  Not to be seen as “out of touch,” the President and his PR team realize he needs to appear fully engaged.  The day before the new hurricane is to make landfall, the President makes an appearance at FEMA headquarters, then proceeds to NORAD’s Command Center in Colorado Springs.

In the face of intense stress and a daily stream of no-longer-predictable events, the normally well scripted and well rehearsed leader now regularly appears distracted and irritated, or wary and exhausted. Facing not just inescapable problems, but overt scrutiny, one has to wonder how well he (as well as other members of his team, for that matter) are holding up.

(The other entries in this series are available here.)

(image 1: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters. FEMA headquarters/Washington. September 23, 2005.  From Yahoo News.  image 2: Eric Draper/White House.  September 21, 2005.  Colorado Springs.

  • Mad

    Looks to me like Bush would rather be somewhere else, like on vacation.
    If he wants to be in touch with Rita, why is he going to Colorado? Get away from scrutiny?
    Reports circulating that Bush is drinking again.

  • Phredd

    Such a difference in presidential attention when the hurricane’s target state is headed by a Bushie. His engagement with Rita reminds me of how involved he was in the Four Hurricanes of Florida phase of the reelection campaign.

    Nothing like that pitiful shot of him and one other person with the disconnected telephone before Katrina, and later his resentful photo-op interactions with emergency responders and victims.

  • molly

    In the top shot he looks like a kid who really doesn’t want to be where he is. He looks like he is only in that seat because he was told to be there and not to get up until given the okay. I see resignation, irritation, and a barely subsumed rebellion in his face. I truly hope that we can hang on for another three years while this teenager is in charge. Kyrie eleison.

  • joshowitz

    He is not thinking about the hurricane at all in those pics. It’s obvious he is only thinking about the poll numbers and maybe the indictments and the editorials.
    He is self-absorbed and not happy with the situation, but not about the hurricane.
    I hope Texans are looking hard at these pics; that is NOT the image of a Strong Leader or evan a Cowboy.
    You think John Wayne or Clint Eastwood would have that sullen expression on his face in the midst of a Cat 4 hurricane?

  • Kerstin
  • Andy

    He’s so accustomed to speaking to his usual cherry-picked audiences that this really is a major shift for him. Remember, he thought he had his accountablilty moment already. Kerstin’s post is great, too. He went to Colorado Springs after taking a rare beating from the press about the disruption a visit to TX would cause right now.

  • Sven

    Yup. It appears that Operation Swagger is in full swing. I nearly fell out my chair this morning when the newsreels showed Him at NORAD, nestled in with the Men in Uniform. It was a scene right out of “Dr. Strangelove.” What a farce.
    This photo from the “event” is somewhat interesting. Note how the high-def screens with the situation maps have all been turned toward the cameras (Not their normal position).

  • pragmatic_realist

    He even manages to look tired and sick next to ‘the living dead man’ Chertoff.
    I think one day he will go down to Crawford and not come back.

  • Phredd

    Matt Cooper’s take is none to kind in this Time article:
    The President has become a hurricane hunter Funny though. As in funny-ha-ha.
    I wondered when the mainstream press would get tired of being stage props.

  • Sven


    Some obvious options for Bush were ruled out. He wouldn’t stay in Washington, where demonstrators were massing for a huge protest against the Iraq war. He probably would avoid his ranch near Crawford, Texas, where he was criticized for spending the first few days of Katrina instead of visiting the disaster scene. He would want to show attention to the storm, but not get so close that he could become a distraction to rescue officials.
    “I’m going to go to our Northcom headquarters to watch the interface between our United States military and … state and local authorities,” Bush said before leaving.

    Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. The world’s first homeless president.

  • Susan Moe

    Looks to me like he could use a good stiff drink!

  • mugatea

    The FEMA moniker is only a L and an E away from being FEMALE. He’s so out of touch with the feminine, of nurture. In these photos he looks like he’s thinking of his lost shaker of salt.
    Probably reminds him of his mother.

  • digginthislife

    Well, cheney is having elective surgery during back to back natural disasters, bush has to show up for some sorta public work, rove is busy handling the katrina “get rich quick contracts”…. hughes is out talkin’ a tall story about the goodness of it all.
    This photo..bush showed the same face talking to Helen Thomas…contempt. Not boredom or plain frustration, but contempt. This man doesn’t care about the business of democracy. he sees life as a video game…quick satisfaction, losses of no consequence. And chertoff ? …….looks ill with realization of the stew he’s swimmin’ in.

  • jillian

    commander Cookoo Banana’s looks like a little highschool boy who’s more interested in playing ball than actually paying attention to what’s happening in class.
    He doesn’t have to actually listen..someone else is going to clean up his mess.

  • dancinfool

    Too much lemon, not enough tequila…

  • Marysz

    Both photos draw attention to Bush’s mouth. In the top photo, his mouth is curiously off to one side, as if he’s grinding his teeth. In the second photo, with Chertoff, his hand is covering his mouth. He’s trying to keep his face under control. His thoughts are more about himself than the matter at hand. He’s intellectually lost, distracted and out of his league. And despite his obsession with physical fitness, he looks wizened and drawn. Does he have a physical problem that we’re not being told about?

  • gleex

    He looks old.
    Like nature (and natural disasters) is exacting its inevitable toll. These images are in sharp contrast to the photo-op’s and stories they produced when he was playing offense to keep support for the war, and all the while working on numerous “under the radar” (does not take much to fly under the radar) agenda advancements (I mean heck the guy still has a great chance of getting his Supreme Court no matter how low his numbers are).
    Back a few weeks ago it was all clearing brush, riding bikes, putting on cowboy boots, (and hiding from Cindy S.)
    Now its all work and no play make Georgie a tired boy. He essentially looks like he should have looked after his first term if he was putting in the hours. Now he has no choice, yet he does not have the stamina if he misses his nap or early bed time.
    All seriousness aside, Mammy Babs should read him My Pet Goat, and he should go right to sleep, and tell him it will all be alright, after all they were as “under privileged” and it’s a leg up for them, just as Bush is “over privileged” and gunning for some stupid legacy, what a waste – but I guess this is what we get for electing someone how has not done a damn thing in his life (well, he drank lots o’ whiskey) other than being born on third base (or more likely at home base) – and you know he thinks he hit a triple.
    I am not so sure he is showing contempt, but I suspect as others have mentioned that his poll numbers, and legacy are more on his mind than the countless IDP’s, and numerous dead. As I pointed out he is sure starting to show his age and the weight of the office.

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