The only ray of sunshine in the days following 9/11 was the magnificent unity displayed by Americans. Though the attack was brutal and numbing, our mutual support offered comfort. This time, the opposite is true of the political class (though ordinary people have been magnificent -- more on that in a minute). The long knives were unsheathed in record time.
At the daily White House press briefings, Scott McClellan is barraged by reporters almost tipsy with that "blood in the water" intoxication they get when a Republican president is perceived to be in political difficulty. Never an edifying sight, it is particularly galling to witness now, when there is literal blood in the water of New Orleans. "Does the president have confidence in FEMA Director Brown?" "Does the White House feel like it missed opportunities to alleviate or head off some of the damage in the New Orleans area, flood damage?" "When was the president informed, warned by the National Hurricane Center or other agencies, that Katrina was a hurricane that could overtop the levees in New Orleans?" "Scott, you talk about looking ahead, and on that point, why should the American people have confidence?"
Leading Democrats, clearly aroused by the possibility of post-Katrina political traction, are in full braying mode. "Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," pronounced House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after the president rejected her recommendation to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown. Pelosi's outburst was supposedly provoked by the president's having asked "What didn't go right?" in New Orleans. But she is being disingenuous. The president had, days before, declared that the disaster relief effort was "unacceptable."
Sen. Harry Reid, lacking Pelosi's instinct for the sound bite, was still able to question whether the president's vacation had anything to do with the federal government's response to the crisis. The Rev. Jesse Jackson demanded to know, according to the AP, "why Bush has not named blacks to top positions in the federal response to the disaster, particularly when the majority of victims remaining stranded in New Orleans are black: 'How can blacks be locked out of the leadership and trapped in the suffering?'"