Bush, a constant challenge to Rove, seemed to come over at the start of Katrina as bemused with the same kind of "My Pet Goat " look that bemused him four years ago on September 11.
First, Rove must have racked his brain over his prote'ge' who was giving a disconnected speech about Iraq in California while Katrina was still roaring through the South. At New Orleans water was breaching Lake Pontchartrain's levee, and Bush was shoring up Iraq.
Then, Thursday morning he said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees. " But, oh, some one did. Mark Fischetti in Friday's New York Times said, "A large scale engineering plan called Coast 2050 developed in 1998 by scientists, Army engineers, metropolitan planners and Louisiana officials might have saved the city, but had gone unrealized. "
And in Friday's Los Angeles Times Richard Olson of Florida International University in Miami said, "None of this can be a surprise. "
Three days after the California speech, while Bush was receiving a "situation briefing, " the situation for Rove must have been unbearable. Bush said the response is "not acceptable, " and for once, he has told the truth. But does he include any of his own responses in that unacceptable category? The question leapt almost unbidden to the mind as the words fell from his lips.
Where Bush and his cohorts have done an acceptable job might be counted on one finger. That he sent help to the tsunami victims comes to mind, but Rove has a fistful of unacceptable responses and images to fight.
The pictures of the suffering people left behind to soak their heels in New Orleans are a blatant announcement that the poor, mostly black, people are the stranded ones. It is a shocking revelation that the dots that pinpoint poverty and lack of control over ones life can't seem to connect with dots over a steep gulf to another more productive life somewhere.
The dots connect instead to gutted government services, starving infrastructure, feeble school commitment, pork-ridden congressional behavior, avoidable war in Iraq and last but foremost ...tax cuts for the well-off with a budget ruined possibly beyond repair in our lifetimes.
As one letter writer, J. Jay Volkert, said in the New York Times today, we can't be protected "if we don't recognize need for public investment to avert disasters. Sooner or later we pay for cheap government. " And sooner or later we pay for leaving the poor behind.
These are the dots that Rove must be trying to gather futilely like balls of mercury skittering away from a broken thermometer.
This time, if he manages it, he deserves a medal, say, like one George Tenet got. A medal of freedom to slink away quietly.