From everything we read from the mainstream media, President Bush is a man on the ropes, beaten, discouraged and out of gas in the middle rounds of his presidency. Already reeling from his problems in Iraq, Katrina nearly delivered the knockout blow.
Liberals have hated him from the beginning, even when he's given them reason to rejoice, such as lavishing federal money on public education. They have been saying that Katrina exposed him as the emperor with no clothes. We can now see, they say, that his aura of resoluteness and leadership following 9-11 was an illusion.
According to them, he never was a real leader, but a man who opportunistically capitalized on the nation's wartime unity and delivered a few good speeches acting tough and decisive.
But in one fell swoop (or onrushing flood), say his critics, his mask was removed. Left exposed is the true face of a man utterly out of his element and who, but for his privileged birth, would never have made it in state politics, much less to the highest office in the land.
If all this weren't bad enough, many conservatives are now feeling betrayed by him for various reasons, not the least of which are his refusal to restrain discretionary spending and his lax immigration policies.
I don't think President Bush has betrayed anyone. To me, he has been a study in contrasts since he emerged on the national stage. Contrary to thoughtless charges from the Left that he's an extreme conservative, his ideology has never been easy to pigeonhole.
He has always been somewhat of a political anomaly, conservative on many things, a bleeding heart on others, resolute and firm at times, tentative and malleable at others, righteously indignant about some policies and almost apologetic on others. He's a man who demands and returns deep loyalty, yet rewards some of his enemies, like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, for stabbing him in the back. He has a tough side and a soft side, both genuine and both very much of part of who he is.
The strong president we saw taking charge after 9-11 is the authentic George W. Bush. But he is his father's son, and he apparently acquired from him the unfortunate notion that Republicans should be more compassionate and kinder and gentler.
Some reject Bush's sincerity about compassionate conservatism and believe he was merely engaged in political maneuvering, for example, when he said during his first presidential campaign that we should not balance the budget on the backs of the poor.