Let's take a look at this portrait of presidential leadership, as painted by the Associated Press:
"Sitting in (the USS Iwo Jima) mess hall, the president watched large screens beaming to him via videoconference the images of three federal officials -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the National Hurricane Center's deputy director Ed Rappaport, and a Federal Emergency Management Agency official -- who gave him updates on the storm. He was told that (Hurricane) Rita was expected to hit the upper-to-middle part of the Texas coast by the weekend, and it could create tropical storm conditions or ... even hurricane-force winds in Louisiana."
I didn't understand why at first, but I found this description -- this finger-on-the-pulse, command-decision setup -- most depressing. Maybe it was because I had just heard the exact same info on my car radio. Sure, the symbolism of the commander in chief on the job is important, but this was showboating. The blowhards of Katrina have whipped up a political windstorm around the president, but I really don't want to see him bend -- and keep bending. After all, this was President Bush's fifth trip to the hurricane zone. Maybe he'll trade in his frequent flyer miles for higher poll numbers.
Do I sound disgruntled? I am also perplexed, left to focus on the inscrutability of such symbolism because the narrative thread of this presidency has become so hard to follow.
For example, Katrina isn't our only crisis. What's up with our borders, for instance? Why doesn't the president bring them under control? So far, the White House solution to the immigration crisis is to plot against border-control advocate Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), conjure up visions of alien amnesty, and now -- final-straw time -- appoint a novice to head up the crucial U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. "I will seek to work with those who are knowledgeable in this area, who know more than I do," 36-year-old Julie Myers told lawmakers at her Senate confirmation hearing last week.
It's not just that Myers' admitted inexperience fails to inspire confidence. It's not just that she is the latest in a string of what columnist Michelle Malkin has called "clueless cronies" appointed to Bush administration jobs in immigration and border security. (Myers is the niece of outgoing Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, and she just married Secretary Chertoff's chief of staff, John F. Wood.) Downright scary is the symbolism of her appointment -- that President Bush considers immigration law enforcement a handy place to park a well-connected novice.