President Bush was in Colorado Springs at the Northern Command center Saturday, monitoring hurricane events. Why Colorado?
The scurrying to set up photo opportunities for Bush showed the White House in crisis-management mode. With his approval ratings lower than ever, he has suffered from the perception that both he and his administration responded too slowly to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Mississippi coast and southeastern Louisiana nearly a month ago.
….White House aides were eager to avoid a repeat with Rita and to try to restore the public’s trust in the president. But they also were aware of the risk of criticism if Bush’s large entourage got in the way of storm response. So they settled on the Northern Command, set up after the 2001 terrorist attacks to direct the military’s homeland security activities, for the president to spend the first hours after Rita struck.
Bush arrived Friday evening for one briefing, then woke early Saturday for a series of other meetings that lasted more than four hours.
Nothing this Administration does is on-the-fly. As the AP reported Saturday:
Trying to revive his image as a take-charge commander in chief after his absence in the early aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush monitored Hurricane Rita on Saturday from a military command center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and huddled with officials at Texas’ Emergency Operations Center in Austin.
Hoping to erase the image of Bush as an aloof leader who got his first glimpse of Katrina’s destructive power from Air Force One as it skimmed 1,700 feet over the Gulf Coast, the president flew west on Friday as Hurricane Rita approached. The trip also took Bush away from the White House on Saturday as a large antiwar protest took place in Washington
So, was his trip a success? The AP reports:
But the White House’s efforts to restore Bush’s public persona as a hands-on leader hit several snags over the weekend as Rita was downgraded from a Category 3 hurricane at landfall to a tropical storm that rumbled northward.
Administration officials scrubbed a Bush trip to San Antonio at the last minute Friday when the search-and-rescue-groups he was supposed to meet moved to a different location to be closer to Rita’s landfall. Aside from the Northern Command stop, the rest of Bush’s travel schedule — usually detailed to the second — was largely a mystery, giving the trip the flavor of a journey to nowhere.
We report. You decide.