I suspect that the average American has two competing images of George Bush. The first is of the leader who responded so vigorously to 9/11. Some average Americans might believe that the Iraqi aspect of his response was too vigorous, but the public was sufficiently satisfied with the overall vigor of Bush’s post-9/11 response to re-elect him.
The second image is of a president perceived as slow off the mark this year when Hurricane Katrina hit. For many, that perception was strengthened by various false starts in 2005 with respect to domestic policy, such as pushing a doomed social security reform plan and nominating Harriet Miers.
By breaking and emphasizing the story of Bush’s efforts to spy on terrorists, The New York Times and the liberal congressional Democrats have reinforced the first image of Bush just as it was beginning to fade from public consciousness.