The Los Angeles Times seems to think that Bush favors spending cuts in this article:
As President Bush tackles the monumental task of easing the social problems wrought by Katrina, he is proving deeply reluctant to use some of the big-government tools at his disposal, apparently out of fear of permanently enlarging programs that he opposes or has sought to cut.
They may be right about Bush's plans actually costing more and doing less good than they could, but the idea that Bush is not just a free-spender is obviously false. Perhaps this is an attempt to show that he's not as good a Democrat as he appears.
Please, please, let it be true:
Here's my silver-lining hope this hurricane season: George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism gets wiped out like a taco hut in the path of a Cat. 5 storm...
The second problem is that compassionate conservatism necessarily demands government activism. If normal conservatives are either too cheap or too uncaring to spend billions of dollars of other peoples' money on dubious social improvements, then compassionate conservatives must feel and do otherwise. In 2003, President Bush proclaimed, "We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move." Bush is certainly living up to that sentiment in the wake of Katrina. He's determined to prove he cares about black people, and "hurt" people, by spending more than the other guys.
But Katrina demonstrates to a certain extent how both compassionate conservatism and welfare-state liberalism alike are uncompassionate. Inheriting from the neocons a basic philosophical comfort with the concept of the welfare state, compassionate conservatism -- which also goes by "big government conservatism" -- sees no pressing need to pare government down to its core functions. Traditional conservatism, on the other hand, considers a lean government essential to the task of fulfilling its core responsibilities.
A great many liberals in recent weeks have argued that conservative hostility to big government suggests we don't support agencies like FEMA or fire and rescue services. This is nonsense. Every conservative I know wants firemen to put out fires. We don't, however, want firemen asking us how our marriage is going or lecturing us about how to be more "sensitive." A fireman can't put out the fires at my house if he's at your house giving you a big hug...
...The real compassionate conservatism is the one from Bush's campaign speeches. It's all about proving that conservatives "care" -- no matter how much it costs.
Master of the obvious U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher says:
"Some of us came here (to Washington DC) to reduce the size of government after the model of Ronald Reagan or others who tried to cut out government programs that weren't necessary. Others came here to streamline government or to make it more efficient, or to reflect more traditional values," U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) told Cybercast News Service Wednesday.
"President Bush isn't here to cut the size of government, he's here to perhaps have government more reflect the values of the people," Rohrabacher explained, following a Capitol Hill news conference sponsored by the 110-member Republican Study Committee aimed at promoting federal spending cuts to offset the costs of Hurricane Katrina...
...Rohrabacher dismissed the Sept. 13 remarks of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who argued that the federal budget was running at peak efficiency. "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority, we've pared it down pretty good," DeLay said.
"I am not sure what Tom had in mind, but I know that anybody who can't see that there is still fat in the federal budget probably can't tell the difference between a pig and a race horse," Rohrabacher said...
Salon columnist Sidney Blumenthal offers a watch-an-ad-to-read-it-all screed entitled "From Gulf to shining Gulf". He thinks Bush is stuck in a "feedback loop". Whatever the merits of his screed which I didn't read, he does point out the following interesting fact:
Speaking about Iraq, Bush said the following on 2/4/04:
"We will do what it takes. We will not leave until the job is done."
Speaking about Katrina, Bush said the following on 9/15/05:
"We will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes."
Maybe he's thinking so fast how to do good for America that he put the politician part of his brain on auto-pilot. Or, maybe the tiny speaker connecting him to Karl Rove failed and he fell back on something he had already said.
...Worse, the pettiness of the president's loyal opposition -- Sen. Harry Reid and other leading Democrats -- holding press conferences before the speech in order to criticize what they had not yet even heard further discredits their standing as serious statesmen.
In lonely and noble exception to such attitudes stands the article by Donna Brazile...
...On the conservative side, a certain ideological rigidity is on display. A conservative television host, among others, deplored the president's statement that historic racism had a role in poverty...
...In light of such commitments, the president's one-sentence reference to "historic" racism should have been seen as a bow to the sensibilities of many of our citizens...
From 9/16 to 9/18 (three days after Bush's speech), Survey USA conducted a poll:
...The number of Americans who now approve of the President's response to Hurricane Katrina is down: 40% today compared to 42% before he announced the Gulf Opportunity Zone.
The number of Americans who disapprove of the President's response to Katrina is up: 56% today compared to 52% before the speech.
Bush went from "Minus 10" on his Response to Katrina before the speech to "Minus 16" today.
One way to make sense of these numbers is to look at the number of Americans who today say the Federal Government is doing "too much" for Katrina victims. That's up to 16% today, more than triple what the number has been on 7 of the 19 days that SurveyUSA has conducted daily tracking since the storm.
[...there's a "damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't" dynamic in the difference between responses between blacks and whites...]
41% of Americans today say that the city of New Orleans should be rebuilt with "private money," the highest that number has been in the 19 days since the storm. The number of Americans who today say New Orleans should be rebuilt with "public money" is 27%, as low as it has been in 19 days of daily tracking.
Bush visited the Gulf Coast yesterday and made it clear that he and other officials are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Rita:
"We're watching very closely, of course, its track," Bush said later at a Folgers coffee plant in Louisiana that recently restarted operations. "All up and down the coastline people are now preparing for what is anticipated to be yet another significant storm."
...Bush began the day in Gulfport, Miss., where he dropped in on the first meeting of Gov. Haley Barbour's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, applauding their "can-do spirit" and pledging to help clean up the devastated Gulf Coast. He flew along the coast over mile after mile of destroyed homes...
...White House press secretary Scott McClellan acknowledged that some of Mississippi's more rural areas still are waiting for federal help that has been focused in New Orleans and other larger population centers.
After Bush returned to Washington, the White House issued a statement saying Bush had signed into law legislation that allows the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow up to $3.5 billion a year from the Treasury, up from the current ceiling of $1.5 billion. He also signed into law a measure that excludes federal assistance for mitigating flood damage from being considered income when determining a person's eligibility for other federal benefit programs.
From the transcript of his remarks:
...I spent some time -- quality time at the Chevron plant in Pascagoula...
We've got people looking at the infrastructure. One of the questions I asked in Washington, D.C., as the principle party responsible for rebuilding the infrastructure, is, have you got your assessment teams out there?
Couldn't he have done all this via teleconferencing?
The WaPo reports on "eroding" GOP support for Bush and his free-spending ways: "Katrina's Cost May Test GOP Harmony":
Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill...
[...WH held smoke and mirrors meeting...]
..."At least give us some idea" of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. "We owe that to the American taxpayer."
...Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said he and other fiscal conservatives are feeling "genuine concern [which] could easily turn into frustration and anger."
...Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for. Conservatives are calling for spending cuts to existing programs, a few GOP moderates are entertaining the possibility of a tax increase, and many in the middle want to freeze Bush tax cuts that have yet to take effect.
The resistance suggests that Bush's second term could turn out far rockier and more contentious than his first. One indicator many Republicans are watching to gauge whether Bush is becoming a liability for the party is in Pennsylvania, where Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, is trailing state treasurer Bob Casey Jr. by double digits...
...Amid this friction, top White House officials told Republicans the relief and recovery package could come in much lower than widely quoted projections of $200 billion...
My sentiments more or less. From David Limbaugh:
Some conservatives are concerned with President Bush's New Orleans speech because of the unlimited federal spending it seemed to promise, but I was far more concerned with his arguable vindication of the wrongheaded notion that racial discrimination is responsible for the disproportionate impact of the flooding on blacks...
But I don't see any silver lining in the president's seeming adoption of the Jesse Jackson school of thought concerning Katrina's racist component. The president said: "As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."
...Either way, his injection of race into the speech is troubling if for no other reason than it gives ammunition and a degree of legitimacy to the race-hustlers' unconscionable ploy to blame delays or inadequacies in the federal response on the administration's alleged racial prejudice against blacks.
I'm not talking about the political downside to Republicans in the president's remarks, but the way others will use those remarks to further divide and alienate the races against each other.
After close to $7 trillion has been spent on the war on poverty, how can anyone seriously argue that liberal solutions have any remote prospect of eradicating poverty or its often-disproportionate effects on blacks?
Isn't it time we consider other possible contributing causes, such as cultural ones? It's hardly an original idea that illegitimacy leads to poverty, and there are very high rates of illegitimacy among blacks in New Orleans. Is that because of too little federal attention or money dedicated to programs designed to lift up the poor? Or too much?
As long as liberals own the vocabulary of compassion in this country, I suppose many are too afraid of being branded racist for saying that simply throwing money at poverty is not going to make a dint in it. Even less likely are they to say that other factors may be contributing to black poverty as well - including the perpetuation of the sinister and patronizing idea that blacks simply can't lift themselves up without the white man's largesse...