With Barack Obama under fire for a flood having happened in Louisiana and him not having visited, Hurricane Katrina and the reaction to Bush’s visit naturally comes to mind. For conservative partisans, Obama is uncaring and the media is biased if they don’t attack him. This is Obama’s Katrina! It is, because conservative partisans are treating Obama just as unfairly as many liberals treated Bush.
To be sure, Bush deserved blame for a poorly-planned relief effort, as did the state and local governments. In this case, there appears to be no reporting to the effect that the relief efforts are being terribly mismanaged, and the extent of the disaster is also not comparable at all.
But then there is the separate question of optics, which is the real reason Obama is being attacked. It’s not that he is doing a bad job responding–it’s just that he didn’t get any photo ops done and it is claimed that he “doesn’t care.” The issue of optics is where Bush was unfairly attacked, because he flew over the disaster zone in an airplane to take a look at it, and he was photographed doing so, and because he wasn’t swimming around in the water or something, critics said he didn’t care.
These photos in the airplane were killer just because they were bad optics:
— Detrick Sanford (@DetrickSanford) August 16, 2016
Unfair for the photos to have been taken and then utilized by his opponents as such? Maybe. One could certainly argue that. When Donald Trump encounters unfavorable press coverage that he thinks is unfair (even when it is straight up quoting what he said), he goes crazy, attacking reports and name calling. “You’re a sleaze.” Megyn Kelly is a “bimbo.” And then there was this beauty last week:
It is not "freedom of the press" when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2016
How does Bush respond?
BUSH: Detached and uncaring. No question about it.
LAUER: Whose fault was it?
BUSH: It’s always my fault. I mean I was the one who should have said, A, don’t take my picture, B, let’s land in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, C, let’s don’t even come close to the area. Let’s — the next place to be seen is in Washington at a command center. I mean, it was my fault.
There’s a quote one of America’s best foreign policy presidents, Harry Truman, who had to make tough decisions like bombing Japan and firing General MacArthur, kept on his desk. It said, “The buck stops here.”
One of the most basic components of leadership is to take responsibility. Things may not always be fair, nor always 100% in your control, but at the end of the day you aren’t in charge if everything is always someone else’s fault. If Bush made a lot of bad mistakes and misjudgments during his presidency, none of which I mean to excuse, it is at least refreshing that he rarely tried to blame someone else.