My Pet Goat Redux

Howard Kurtz has a roundup of “Tsunami Politics” in this morning’s Washington Post. Echoing various newspapers from which he quotes, Kurtz dutifully recites the criticism that President Bush was “slow” to react to the Indian Ocean disaster:

Like it or not, Bush fostered the impression that he was painfully slow to react to the post-Christmas disaster while at the ranch. Three full days with no appearance before the cameras? What else did he have to do that was more important?

Oh, I don’t know. I supposed he could have ordered an aircraft carrier and a Marine strike group to the disaster scene. That would be more important than giving a useless press conference, which would have done nothing at all to help anyone. These press complaints are typical of the elevation of symbolism over substance that permeates newspaper coverage of many issues.
There is, of course, a subtext to press complaints that President Bush was slow to give a press conference. As Kurtz notes, the Los Angeles Times, one of the country’s most left-wing newspapers, made the subtext explicit:

President Bush’s initial, halting response to the Indian Ocean tsunami catastrophe, followed within days by strong expressions of concern and decisive action, spotlighted a governing style that sometimes finds its stride only after stumbling at the gate. This seems especially true when Bush is confronted with a cataclysmic event and must improvise quickly — as with the Dec. 26 tsunami or the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. . . .

Michael Moore remains a powerful influence on the Democratic Party.

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