Bush Compares Responses to Hurricane, Terrorism - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 - President Bush on Wednesday for the first time linked the American response to terrorism and its response to Hurricane Katrina, declaring that the United States is emerging a stronger nation from both challenges, and saying that terrorists look at the storm's devastation "and wish they had caused it."

Mr. Bush's speech, at a luncheon for the Republican Jewish Coalition, appeared to be part of a White House strategy to restore the luster of strong leadership that Mr. Bush enjoyed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and that administration officials fear he has lost in the faltering response to the hurricane.

Mr. Bush himself has never publicly compared his role after the 2001 attacks to his role now in the rebuilding effort on the Gulf Coast or in the preparations for the landfall of Hurricane Rita. But the White House recently described at length how deeply he was involved in calling governors and federal officials to make sure that relief efforts and preparations for Hurricane Rita were carefully coordinated.

White House officials have talked about how he has used the secure video system at the White House, which was installed to let him talk to commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq, to speak with federal officials in Louisiana and other states.

Until the speech on Wednesday, Mr. Bush had kept the issues of terrorism, Iraq and the hurricane separate. But the public has not: polls show declining approval of Mr. Bush's handling of both Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. By suggesting for the first time that America's enemies were pleased to see the devastation caused by the hurricane, he appeared to be linking the country's natural and human challengers.

Mr. Bush said he had been "thinking a lot" about the comparisons between the response to the attacks in New York and Washington, and the storm devastation. "We look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break," he said. Turning the subject to terrorists, he said: "They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people."

In weaving the themes, Mr. Bush said that just as the United States would not let an act of nature blow the nation off course, it would not let the acts of terrorsts drive it out of Iraq. "No matter how many car bombs there are, these terrorists cannot stop the march of freedom in Iraq," he told the luncheon crowd, which include current and former members of his administration and some of his larger campaign donors.

As Mr. Bush spoke in downtown Washington, some of his aides and members of Congress were speculating that the cost of responding to Hurricane Katrina would almost certainly affect the war in Iraq.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has been critical of the administration's war policy, emerged Tuesday from a meeting with administration officials saying that the White House had not been specific about how it would offset the costs of the federal storm relief.

But inside the administration, a senior diplomat involved in the Iraq effort, who would not allow his name to be used because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that it was hard for him to imagine "Congress spending more on rebuilding schools in Iraq before they rebuild schools in New Orleans."

Bush Compares Responses to Hurricane, Terrorism - New York Times


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home