Today's Blogs

What Bush Said

Bloggers bite into President Bush’s prime-time Hurricane Katrina address and discuss the New York Times implementing charges for online access to op-eds. 

What Bush said:In a televised address Thursday night, President Bush discussed the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina and proposed a “Gulf Opportunity Zone” to help rebuild the devastated region. The president promised tax incentives for local businesses, personal accounts for job training and education, and a thorough review of the emergency plans of all American cities, in a speech some commentators believe was crafted to regain political ground lost during the “faltering response” to the hurricane.

Many conservatives see, in the performance, the leader they elected in 2000. “The President was at his best tonight,” commends attorney Paul Mirengoff of Power Line. “You can call it FDR/LBJ liberalism, big government conservatism, or compassionate conservatism. I call it American-style pragmatism…and, as such, it will unite most of the country,” he predicts. Radio host Hugh Hewitt enthusiastically concurs. “A good speech by a good man,” he writes. “Perfect pitch returned tonight, and the president’s looks backward and forward were on target.”

Though he lauds the speech at Captain’s Quarters, conservative Ed Morrissey suggests presidential resolve and budgetary commitment might not prove determinate factors in rebuilding the city, citing a Washington Post report showing fewer than half of the evacuees intend to return to New Orleans. At the National Review’s conservative colloquium The Corner, Iain Murray says the permanent displacement of residents might not be a bad thing. “[I]t’s often the case that city populations shift after a natural disaster,” he writes. “But they are replaced by people who come to help rebuild and then stay, which means a new risk-taking, entrepreneurial population, and that may well be a good thing.”

“A good speech, I thought, and I say that through clenched teeth,” compliments Matt Welch at Reason’s Hit and Run, though he’d like to see the president learn the lessons of fiscal and bureaucratic discipline rather than pursuing a policy of federal aggrandizement. A disappointed Tacitus lists 10 troubling lessons we learned last night about the president and his stewardship of the GOP.

Many on the left are outraged at the appointment of strategist deluxe Karl Rove to lead the reconstruction effort. “Shouldn’t that be raising a lot of questions – a man whose entire professional experience is in political messaging and patronage?” asks judicious liberal Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo. The president, Marshall writes, “put his chief spin-doctor in charge of the biggest reconstruction and refugee crisis the country’s probably ever faced. That tells you all you need to know about his values.”

Some observers have other complaints. Washington, D.C.-based Political Pit Bull Greg Tinti thinks Bush should have addressed the race issue more directly. “He should have unequivocally stated that the inadequate response had nothing to do with the skin color of Katrina’s victims. He should have identified the race-baiting that occurred in the wake of Katrina as what it is: a polarizing tactic being used by some to score political points at time when the country needs unity and leadership,” he says. (Conservative La Shawn Barber agrees). “As the President stated tonight, out this terrible disaster can come hope. As some have already noted, this might be the second coming of LBJ’s War on Poverty. I hope so for it’s certainly long overdue.”

National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez is one of many on the right balking at the enormous cost of the big government-style programs the president proposed.Many on the left smell Republican discord—particularly in recommendations, by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, to offset the cost of reconstruction by streamlining federal spending in other areas and perhaps back away from bids to make recent tax cuts permanent. “Griping about spending is one thing, but when they start suggesting they might hold the line on tax cuts, it’s clear that some serious rebellion is in the air,” writesWashington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum. “And what does this mean? That’s easy: a fire breathing social conservative to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s Supreme Court seat. Bush is going to have to do something to keep the Coburn wing of the party happy, after all.”

Read Slate takes on the speech here and here.Read more blog posts about the presidential address here, more about Hurricane Katrina here, and more about New Orleans here.

The Times gets exclusive:Starting Monday, the New York Times will begin charging its online readers for access to its op-ed columns. The program, known as TimesSelect, will cost $50 annually and include some limited access to the paper’s previously-pay-as-you-go archives. “The Internet is losing its innocence,” laments Matt Drudge of Internet tabloid The Drudge Report.

“The Edsel. New Coke. Times Select,” intones conservative GT at Civilized Invective. Others are equally skeptical. At imp_perfect, Iva-Marie Palmer writes the package is overpriced and suggests a scaled pricing system by which readers could purchase access to as few or as many columnists as they’d like. “What Business Is The New York Times In?” asks Jeff Lang of URBANintelligence. “Doesn’t the Time’s value come from the spread of it’s ideas?”

“It’s really happening,” writes Ben Vershbow of if:book. “The Times is betting that significant numbers of readers will shell out, just like they do for a premium channel on cable. Can the Times be the HBO of web news?”

Read more about TimesSelect. Read the results of Timothy Noah’s contest ranking the value of the Times columnists in Slate.

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