As I'm sure you've all heard by now, W has officially taken "responsibility" for the debacle in the Gulf Coast:
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."
There are several issues worth noting here, however.
One has to do with what you may be wondering yourselves: why it is that I put the word responsibility in quotation marks. The reason I did that is because of a question Josh Marshall posits: what does he mean by the word "responsibility?" Does he mean that he takes responsibility in the general sense that every leader is ultimately responsible in some way for bungles that occur during their tenure as leader? Or, on the other hand, is he admitting that he's actually personally responsible for this mess, because of, for instance, his choice of filling FEMA positions based on patronage instead of qualifications, or sending some 35% of the Gulf Coasts' National Guardspeople to Iraq, or draining the coffers of the Federal Treasury, thereby undermining the government's ability to maintain and raise the levees on Lake Pontchartrain, or simply not taking the time beforehand to understand the magnitude of this disaster before it was too late, as Brian Williams reported tonight on NBC News? Which one is it?
The second problem relates to a boneheadedly obvious ramification of his admittance of responsibility: it is now more than ever an extremely unwise decision for congress to settle with an investigation headed by one of the guilty parties. You don't allow indicted cops to head the investigation into their own crimes, so why on earth would you allow someone responsible for a disaster to head the subsequent investigation?
The third issue relates to a bizarre argument W proferred in the speech. This was a paragraph or two after the above quote:
"One thing for certain; having been down there three times and have seen how hard people are working, I'm not going to defend the process going in, but I am going to defend the people who are on the front line of saving lives. Those Coast Guard kids pulling people out of the -- out of the floods are -- did heroic work. The first responders on the ground, whether they be state folks or local folks, did everything they could. There's a lot of people that are -- have done a lot of hard work to save lives."
I've been keeping a pretty careful watch on the hurricane aftermath, and have read many of the President's most vehement opponents (by the way, for those of you who are interested, John Kerry offerred this zinger: "The President has done the obvious, only after it was clear he couldn’t get away with the inexcusable." Ooooh snap!), and I've never heard anyone even begin to hint at laying any blame with the first responders out there navigating the toxic pools of New Orleans. Who in their right mind would cast any stones their way? Is this Rove's next PR move, insinuating that those who attack the administration are attacking the first responders?