"Katrina Liberals" and the End of Bush's 2nd Term Agender


Over at Ragged Thots, occasional Reason contributor and NY Postie Robert A. George discusses the possibility of how Hurricane K just blew away any hope for a successful second term by Dubya. Bonus irony: As George points out, Hurricane Andrew helped do in Bush I. Here he discusses Republican operative Bill Kristol's appearance on Fox News Sunday:

To the extent that the "second-term agenda" (i.e. Social Security, extending tax cuts, etc.) wasn't already in trouble, Katrina just swept it away. Kristol said that he sees no sign that suddenly people are want more taxes instead of less taxes….

But, here's the big question: Did Kristol just sleep through 1992? Did he forget what Hurricane Andrew did to President H.W. Bush's presidency? Yes, Clinton's "It's the economy, stupid" was the memorable political slogan. But, the Bush administration's seeming slowness to respond to Hurricane Andrew helped craft the image that it was out-to-lunch when it came to domestic matters (the racial component evident in Katrina didn't come into play-- that came into play earlier in the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles). Kristol was Dan Quayle's chief of staff at the time. You'd think he would remember the curve ball that Mother Nature can toss into the political ballgame.

How weird that Iraq and hurricane's may play parallel roles in the respective legacies of two George Bushes….

If the terrorist attacks mugged liberals into reality and turned them into 9/11 conservatives, one can't ignore the possibility that the events of this past week may force many Republicans to become "Katrina liberals." At the very least, if one thought the Bush spending was insane in the first term -- baby, buckle your seat belts and hand over your wallets for the budget-busting spree in the second term.

Whole thing here.

One needn't sign on to every aspect of George's analysis to agree that Bush 2's second term is coming a cropper and that Katrina provides the punctuation mark to the prez's failure so far to sell the Iraq war better, do anything about Social Security, etc. Between rising gas prices and the perception of failure to prepare for Katrina--and mid-term election wrangling swinging into full gear in a few months, it's going to be tough for him to do much from here on out.

Way back when, I hypothesized that Bush had anywhere from six months to two years to git 'r done in his second term, before something stopped him cold (probably a scandal). Well, just as no one was expecting the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected something like this (not to mention the near-simultaneous opening of two, count 'em two, Supreme Court openings to stretch out the political process this time around).

Back in February, we asked a panel of luminaries to list 7 high hopes and 7 big fears of a Bush second term.

NEXT: Death Tax 4ever?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Who is the last president to have a successful, scandal-free second term? Washington?

  2. I remember voting in 92 and thinking, man, that federal response to Andrew is what I'm basing my vote on, yeeeeeeah, that's it. based on that little sentence of BS (here come all the folks who remember sitting in the voting both thinking Andrew), I'm not really inclined to take anything else in this story seriously.

  3. The federal response to Andrew had an effect in Florida, and Florida has been known to affect presidential elections somewhat.

  4. Yeah, I think Georgie boy and the Republicans are in for some rough weather on their own.

    I'm pretty sure Bush didn't smash through one of those levees with his pickup truck.. but when the media's done with him, he might as well have..

    This whole thing has really shown me how helpless and infantile many people are in their dependence on the government. Some of the virtues that set this country apart is rugged individualism and personal responsibility. Well, fuck that.

  5. Hurricane Ivan was Bush II's Andrew, and he handled it flawlessly. Not to mention that Bush I's Iraq war was a nearly untarnished success, whereas Bush II's is ... something else. There's also a big difference between losing reelection and having one's second term agender reduced to rubble.

    So, basically, it looks like the well of clever angles on Katrina has run dry.

  6. ..some virtues "are"..


  7. I guess if you measure "success" in an administration by whether the pundicenti and the yammering classes like you, I guess George W. Bush isn't going to make it.

    Big deal.

    What really matters is whether you can get judges on the bench and legislation passed. Against a Democratic party that can't pick its fights well; whose high-visibility spokespeople are perceived as unserious, radical gas bags? Bush should be able to do almost everything that he wants to get done.

  8. Well Nick,

    I remember seeing you on Dennis Miller right after the election (I promise I only watched it because you were there) where you said something like "If Bush can to Soc. Sec. reform etc. we can put his face on the dollar bill." Obviously if was trying to do something difficult ...

    The really sad part for libertarians/libertarian-Republicans is that the American people just don't buy it. You won't get S.S. reform of any value (not to mention Medicare) until there is an economic Cat 5 - and then I fear what the response will look like ,,,,,

  9. Please note the difference between irony and coincidence.

  10. It will be a great tragedy if Iraq turns into another Cambodia because of Katrinia but stranger things have happened.

  11. GOP senators and house representatives will try to put some distance between themselves and Bush in 2006, and there's no better way of doing that than preaching fiscal discipline. The public is slowly starting to understand the massive financial mess we're in, and they will probably want some answers next November.

    The GOP congresspersons should push for a vote on Bush's social security plan soon. Since the idea is clearly doomed anyway, they might as well put it to sleep while they still can and then offer up an alternative, such as that of Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah). This would also give them the opportunity to portray the Dems as a group that has no ideas of their own.

    Since the Dems are nicely positioned to gain some governors' seats, and the senate races look like they will be a war of inches (only a handful are really vulnerable), the ugliest 2006 fights will be seen in the House of Representatives. Keep your eyes peeled for shifting opinions on government spending, the war in Iraq, etc. among GOP reps.

  12. One other point:

    The Democratic play to make Katrina into Andrew for '06 started the tuesday night after the storm; pretty much everything they've said since has been aimed at that - hence why Gerneal Honore is even calling some of it "B.S."

    Comissions aside, the immediate aftermath of the storm will be over in a few weeks. That leaves the GOP roughly a year to work on rebuilding the damaged areas ... that whole bit is going to be under federal control for a long time. That gives them a chance to change voters perspectives. How to do it, hmmmmm.

    Methinks Bush has yet another reason to follow this:

    "At the very least, if one thought the Bush spending was insane in the first term -- baby, buckle your seat belts and hand over your wallets for the budget-busting spree in the second term."

  13. The media likes to organize events into one-cause-one-effect narratives, and as the first draft of history, that perception often sticks.

    In 10 years - maybe 5 - Bush may be remembered as the wildly popular president who was done in by a hurricaine, just as most people will now tell you that Howard Dean lost Iowa because of the scream speech.

  14. Somewhat off-topic, but does anyone know if body counts are being posted yet--actual dead as opposed to speculation? I haven't been tuned in 24-7 to the TV so I haven't kept up as much. Just curious. (Sorry if that sounds morbid.)

  15. joe

    You may be right on that take. Oddly, if that perception does hold, it will be incredibly unfair to both Bush and his critics.

  16. I think it is natural to be curious about the body counts. I wish more ppl were. These numbers help us determine what the policy priorities should be on a going forward basis. As voters, there is no shame in wanting this information in a timely way.

    I'd like to know the emergency-responder-to-civilian-casualty ratios of both 9/11 and the hurricane, too. It might put that looter crap in more realistic perspective.

  17. My prediction--in the world of ever-shortening news cycles, Katrina will be a distant memory to the electorate outside of the Gulf Coast by Nov. of next year. It will probably have an effect on some of the congressional races in that area.

    But here's something to think about: N.O. and the surrounding area wouldn't have voted for Republicans, regardless. And the more conservative areas of Miss. and Ala. wouldn't vote for leftist Dems at gunpoint. So the voting difference might not be that significant.

    Undoubtedly, though, fiscal restraint and libertarian ideals will take another body blow as Uncle Sugar goes into hyperdrive.

  18. Bush prays to God that
    even a lame duck has feathers
    which repel the storm.

  19. Seems to me Katrina is almost a mirror image of 9/11. Both occurred about the same time after Bush?s election, but while one seemed to coat him with the Teflon, the other seems to have coated him with.....

    What?s the opposite of Teflon? Glue?

  20. joe:

    Do people really think that Dean lost Iowa because of the scream? I thought even the dullards knew that the scream came AFTER Dean knew he'd lost the Iowa caucus.

  21. And thank for making listen to "The Scream" again. Few things are as guaranteed to put a smile on my face than "yeeeeARRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH".

  22. You're confusing cause and effect, Ira.

    Katrina is sticking to Bush because he was already glue. The press has been letting him get away with murder since 9/11, but the administration's performance - I'll be more specific, Scott McClellan's statement that "we don't comment on ongoing investigations" during the Karl Rove news conference - made the press collectively say "screw that."

    One year ago, if a CNN reporter saw people dying of thirst in the Convention Center, and Michael Chertoff told them "we've gotten food and water to everyone," they would have reported it as he-said-she-said. What with being objective and non-partisan and all. No more.

  23. but the administration's performance - I'll be more specific, Scott McClellan's statement that "we don't comment on ongoing investigations" during the Karl Rove news conference - made the press collectively say "screw that."

    Talk about yer single cause, single effect narratives!

  24. "'Mississippi is a part of the future of this country and part of that future is to help you get back up on your feet,' Bush told 200 local officials."

    Did somebody run this speech through the William S. Burroughs Cut-Up Machine before loading it in the teleprompter? (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/gary.leeming/burroughs/cutup_machine.htm)

  25. I, for one, have little faith that neither the American people nor the Press will have have Katrina on their minds next November.

  26. Ironchef

    I'll bet you they won't have it on their minds THIS November.

  27. At this Hit and Run blog, the Reason authors generally seem a lot less rightwing than the posters at large.

    I look forward to the day that "libertarian" doesn't always connote pro-big-business or pro-aggro-military. Actually, now that I think about it, "libertarian" is too old fashioned sounding of a name -- let the winger-tarians have it.

    We need a new name for those of us who would slash the Social Security budget, but keep public schools, and slash the foreign war budget, but keep the National Guard -- all in tandem -- shearing the pet causes of the Left and the Right with equal ruthlessness. Gov-Lite or something snappy like that.

  28. "We need a new name for those of us who would slash the Social Security budget, but keep public schools"

    How about "idiots"?. Do you know nothing of the performance of our government-run school system. What's your malfunction, Dave?

    Good conservative blowback on Katrina:

  29. I am probably a bit biased on public education. My public education benefitted me tremendously and I have a hard time thinking that that was a bad thing. Selfish, I guess.

    I don't mind getting rid of Head Start, or getting rid of fed involvement in education, but I still strongly believe in keeping the public schools going.

  30. Can anyone explain to me how any public entity can be expected mount a "massive" and instantaneous response to such an unpredictable phenomenon as a hurricane? In less than 24 hours of knowing "approximately" where it will hit? In an era of federal and municipal budget deficits? When many of the potential victims are unable or unwilling to evacuate? And when the disaster covers an area the size of Great Britain? Reality check, please.

  31. Can anyone explain to me how any public entity can be expected mount a "massive" and instantaneous response to such an unpredictable phenomenon as a hurricane? In less than 24 hours of knowing "approximately" where it will hit?

    1. They already knew of the risk. That is why the levees were there. They could have been expected to build up the levees for the bad storm that occurred, but they didn't. That was a foreseeable and stupid mistake (regardless of whether it is the fault of Reps Dems or both).

    2. As far as evacuation, we don't know how many unwilling people there were because there was no real government evacuation. If an evacuation effort had been run, but they couldn't fill the busses, then you might have a point. That isn't what happened and your speculation that the dead people wouldn't have taken the busses seems wrong-headed and actually kind of calloused.

  32. W's 'second term agenda' is pure canard. It's nothing more than lip service to his 2000 campaign promises. There is no second term agenda because Bush accomplished his entire agenda in the first term.

    1. Drive up the price of oil.
    2. Open the spigot of public funds to the coffers of those he favors.

    Aside from the mismanaged war in Afghanistan (remember Al Queda, Osama Bin Laudin?), everything W has done in office has been to serve one or both of those goals.

  33. "Yup," the overall point raised in this article is what I was referring to in bringing up the Hurricane Andrew comparison.

    Just because you didn't think about Andrew doesn't mean that it had no impact on how the campaign played out.

  34. What we need is a real time body count on TV in a window or a screen crawl, like a score board.

  35. (Aside to Dave W.: private school scholarships and other financial aid.)

  36. How high do you think the body count attributed to chimpy bushhitler would have to be for the liberals to have a collective orgasm?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.