President Bush Is Doing a Heck of a Job in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

As reasonable conservative I have been invited by this very open-minded blog to crosspost this piece from my very modest blog, which presents the conservative view of the job President Bush has done in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I hope you will be persuaded by my extremely reasonable arguments:

President Bush is doing a heck of a job in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but the liberal media won't give him credit. Just as they ignore all of the successes in Iraq, the media refuses to acknowledge that all of the amazing progress on the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina has been due to the President's remarkable leadership. From the way the glass-half-empty pundits spin the situation there you would never know how great things are actually going. A year ago much of New Orleans was under water but now it is as dry as any other American city. After Katrina there was no electricity, except for a brief moment when the President gave his speech in Jackson Square, but now only a year later power has been restored to more than 50% of residents. Before Katrina many people lived in ramshackle houses in some of the poorest areas of New Orleans, but those hovels are steadily being replaced with shiny new trailers and mobile homes. What homes were not destroyed have skyrocketed in value bringing potential financial windfalls to their owners. And the person who perhaps lost the most because of Hurricane Katrina, Trent Lott, whose 19th century mansion was reduced to rubble, is well on his way to rebuilding a new and bigger mansion as soon as his lawsuit against his insurance company makes it through the courts. All in all there is no denying that things are trending upward for people in the Gulf region.

President Bush campaigned for office as a "compassionate conservative" and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina gave him the opportunity to show us exactly what that meant. Compassionate conservativism, which I once described as "deeply sympathizing with peoples' problems and sincerely hoping that private enterprise will be able to do something about them," has left the Gulf region stronger and more self-reliant than it was before Hurricane Katrina. Despite the nay-saying of critics, many local people were genuinely touched by the sympathy the President showed as he toured the area this week and his message of hope that someone would help them rebuild.

Everything that has happened there is the result of President Bush's estimable leadership from Day One. From the moment he heard that there might be a crisis looming, the President remained calm, steady and resolute. He didn't immediately leap up in a panic and draw up complicated unworkable plans to give the appearance of doing something. Just as he took a moment to reflect when he first heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, after being briefed on Hurricane Katrina, the President retreated to his Crawford, Texas, ranch where he could contemplate in an environment that was most conducive to clear thinking, taking only one brief break to appear at a previously scheduled political fundraiser, and then he delegated all responsibility to people working for him. And as the President showed in Iraq, he does not like outlining elaborate plans that only hamstring the ability of people to react spontaneously to events and remain flexible. Planning requires the ability to predict the future, which everyone knows is impossible.

Other Presidents might have immediately mobilized the National Guard or sent in FEMA to deal with the approaching hurricane. Think how many lives would have been lost with that approach! Just as he stood up to Pentagon generals who urged him to send in more troops to Iraq, which might have been killed, the President resisted the pleas of local officials to send in large numbers of government personnel prematurely, which would have resulted in many unnecessary casualties. Instead, he patiently waited until it was safe and sent in a more maneuverable smaller force that could react more quickly and with greater precision than a large, lumbering force. He knew that ultimately it was best to let local officials handle the crisis without too much meddling from the Federal government.

Some conservatives criticized President Bush for the promises he made in his speech in Jackson Square to do whatever was necessary and spend whatever money was needed to rebuild New Orleans. What they didn't know at the time was that the President actually had no intention of spending a great deal of money all at once. A year later most of the money he promised has not even arrived yet, giving the people there a chance to set themselves up on their own two feet first. This strategy has had the effect of weaning a region that was once overly dependent on government handouts from the crutch of government largesse. Meanwhile, much of the rebuilding is being handled not by corrupt and inefficient government bureaucracies but by private enterprise, which has been lured to the area with such incentives as no-bid contracts.

There has also been criticism of the deliberate pace of the clean-up. Some impatient people believe that we should have rushed into putting everything back the way it was without analyzing the situation first. By taking things slowly it gives us time to consider whether it might be preferable not to rebuild certain neighborhoods, especially the poorer ones. Perhaps a smaller, more compact New Orleans would work better. Some are even suggesting that we think about whether we should even rebuild New Orleans at all, especially since it was always a socio-economic drag on the rest of Louisiana anyway. We might also think about moving it somewhere safer, far away from water, perhaps to a place like like Kansas. Instead of seeing Hurricane Katrina as a negative thing, some people are looking at it as an opportunity.

Regrettably, some people are also trying to claim that racism had something to do with the response after Hurricane Katrina. While some people might want to inject race into everything, the President, who is as color-blind as a bat, doesn't see the world in terms of such categories as black and white or Shia and Sunni. He sees the world only in terms of self-reliant hard workers and lazy and shiftless people who depend on the government for everything.

The most important legacy of Hurricane Katrina is that President Bush proved once and for all that people cannot depend on the government to solve their problems and that the best kind of government is very limited government or even no government at all. That is the same lesson he is teaching the people of Iraq today. FEMA's response to the disaster was a vindication of what conservatives have been saying for years--that big government can't do anything right. Ultimately, the American people are going to be better off knowing that they cannot depend on the government to save them. If the people of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast do manage to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and rebuild, they will be much better off the next time a hurricane destroys everything they have, knowing that no one will save them but themselves.

Crossposted at Jon Swift

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