We are about to find out what George W. Bush is made of. For he is approaching the greatest crisis of his presidency.
Nine days after 9-11, Bush gave the most powerful speech of his career and rallied a nation. Today, he sits atop a government whose agencies — FEMA and Homeland Security — are synonyms for bumbling in the worst disaster in American history. Democrats sense Bush may be assaulted with impunity. He can’t or won’t fight back.
Thus, Hillary hits four morning TV shows to denounce his handling of the Katrina disaster. Nancy Pelosi, after Bush rejects her demand in a private call that he fire FEMA head Michael Brown, reveals the content of the call and declares the president to be “oblivious, in denial, dangerous.”
For the U.S. House minority leader to say the president of the United States is off his rocker and a danger is a rare insult. But it reveals that the Democrats no longer fear retaliation by this White House.
And so, Jesse Jackson brazenly plays the race card. “We have great tolerance for black suffering,” he told CNN. “Those who are suffering the most … in New Orleans certainly are black people.
“Today, I saw 5,000 African-Americans on the I-10 causeway, desperate, perishing, dehydrated, babies dying. … It looked like Africans in the hull of a slave ship. It was so ugly and obvious.”
Jackson is parroted by the Black Caucus and rapper Kanye West, who blurted out on an NBC benefit program, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
Now, about these race charges. Yes, the vast majority of those who refused to leave or were left behind and wound up in the squalor and terror of the Superdome and convention center were black. But, so, too, is that klutz of a mayor, many of the cops who fled, and nearly all the looters and rapists.
But most of the Army and Guard troops and U.S. agents pouring in to restore order and almost all of the rescue workers are white, a fact the race-baiters ignore, not wanting truth to dilute the purity of their hate crimes.
But a backlash has begun, if calls to talk radio are an indication. A week ago, everyone was demanding the president send in the 82nd Airborne. Today, rage at FEMA is being replaced by rage at the race-baiters.
But in this crisis, President Bush has signaled weakness. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a splendid conservative jurist and public man, had not even been laid to rest at Arlington before Bush held a press conference to announce his successor: John Roberts.
The unseemly haste in elevating Roberts suggests Bush is desperate to divert attention from the New Orleans disaster. And where Roberts had originally been named to replace a social liberal, Sandra Day O’Connor, thus strengthening the conservative bloc, he is now to replace his mentor, thus simply maintaining the existing balance on the court the president is committed to change.
When Roberts is confirmed — Democrats now intend to cut him up — the constitutionalist bloc will still consist of, at best, only three justices: Scalia, Thomas and Roberts. And while Roberts is a man of brilliance, integrity, judicial temperament and wit, and showed nerve and grit as a young aide to Attorney General William French Smith and President Ronald Reagan, he is unscarred in public battle.
Unlike the man who should have been Bush’s choice.
Antonin Scalia, a generation older than Roberts, with near 20 years experience on the high court, has scar tissue aplenty, all of it acquired in battle for the philosophy and beliefs Bush claims to hold dear. He is the veteran warrior for constitutionalism and intellectual heavyweight of the court. To pass over Scalia for Roberts is like passing over George Patton and giving command of the 3rd Army to a brilliant young staff officer from the Pentagon.
With only 13 percent of the public blaming Bush for the failures in handling the Katrina disaster, the demagogues are making fools of themselves, once again repelling Middle America as they pander to the basest instincts of the far left.
The media establishment is not so stupid. Sensing weakness in the White House, they are now demanding that Bush, to prove he truly wants to be a uniter in a time of division, not do something so divisive as naming a Rehnquist conservative to replace O’Connor.
Should the president accede to these poorly disguised extortion demands and name a centrist jurist, it would be an act of appeasement that would break the hearts of his constituency. The liberal media would applaud him publicly, but privately they would laugh, for we would all know that this presidency had been broken.
The message Bush should send this city that is at his throat is that Michael Brown, no matter his failures, will not be handed over to a lynch mob, and the new associate justice of the Supreme Court will be Michael Luttig or Edith Jones. Yes, they would howl — but so what?