How they've reached that conclusion, in the face of war, increasing poverty, an unprecedented federal deficit, the erosion of civil rights, and a governing philosophy of enriching the richest Americans is beyond me. You'd have to ask the increasingly hacky Martin Peretz. But I've had it.
It was two weeks too late for President Bush to rally Americans to respond to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina; but, with last night's nationally televised address, he began to catch up with events. The speech was Bush's finest half-hour since Katrina struck the Gulf Coast states. It didn't present him as the unifying and decisive leader he appeared to be after September 11--no rhetoric or stagecraft could do that. But, while he'll never be seen as inspiring again, this speech will start a modest comeback, convincing the half of the nation that elected him twice that he at least remains an adequate leader.
Students of speech-craft usually concentrate on the clever phrase, the cogent argument, or the dubious assertion, all of which persuade people--or don't--to follow a president's lead. But, for Bush last night, sequence played a more central role than substance, and the order in which he made his points explains why he was able to sound so plausible.
Appearing alone, wearing an open-collared shirt, Bush began by explaining why he was speaking from so strange and stark a setting, saying simply, "I am speaking to you from the city of New Orleans--nearly empty, still partly under water, and waiting for life and hope to return."
Funny, from what I've seen not even his notoriously loyal followers had much to say about his speech. The rest of the country didn't give a damn. But apparently a 40% approval rating is "adequate." Allow me to point out that during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, his approval rating was in the 70's. Nixon's approval rating was higher than Bush's at the height of Watergate-- and he resigned.
And if you actually saw the speech, it was clearly as elaborately-staged as every Bush appearance. Carefully-lit, completely orchestrated, and entirely pre-fabricated, right down to the "Look, I'm a working man!" unbuttoned collar.