Thursday, September 08, 2005

Black and White and Dead All Over

[[P O L L S]] * An overwhelming majority of Americans--67 percent--say that George W. Bush “could have done more to speed up relief efforts” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a new Pew Research Center study. Only 28 percent believe “he did all he could to get them going quickly.” The same poll finds that the prez’s overall job approval rating has fallen to 40 percent (from 50 percent in January of this year), while his disapproval rating has jumped to 52 percent (from 43 percent in January). These findings are similar to what other polls have shown recently.

But what’s most interesting about the Pew study is that it shows Bush’s ratings “have slipped the most among his core constituents--Republicans and conservatives.” While 85 percent of self-described Democrats in this analysis and 71 percent of Independents gave the prez low marks for his work in sending aid to survivors of the hurricane, a whopping 40 percent of Republicans are also unsatisfied.

Also revealing is this poll’s breakdown along black-white lines. Seventy-one percent of African Americans say the disaster “shows that racial inequality remains a major problem” in the United States, while a majority of white respondents--56 percent--say that’s not a significant lesson taught by this debacle. At the same time, 66 percent of blacks insist that the government’s response to the crisis would have come faster had most of the storm’s victims been white; 77 percent of whites say race had nothing to do with it. Eighty-five percent of African Americans insist that Bush could have done more to spur relief efforts; a slightly smaller majority of whites--63 percent--say the same thing. “While both of these [latter] attitudes are also strongly related to partisanship,” the Pew folks report, “these racial differences remain even when party affiliation is taken into account.” Blacks are more sympathetic, too, toward people who, after the tempest, took things from New Orleans homes and businesses. Fifty-seven percent of African Americans polled describe them as “ordinary people trying to survive during an emergency”; 38 percent of whites express that same opinion, but another 37 percent describe the looters as “criminals taking advantage of the situation.”

For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pew contends, “a majority of Americans”--56 percent--“say it is more important for the president to focus on domestic policy than the war on terrorism.” And nearly half (46 percent) believe this hurricane will send the nation into an economic depression.

ADDENDUM I: Bush fares no better in a CBS News poll, which finds a decisive majority of respondents--58 percent--disapproving of the prez’s efforts in reaction to the Katrina catastrophe; only 38 percent approve of his efforts. CBS calls this “a dramatic change from the public’s reaction just after the storm hit on August 29th,” when 54 percent of Americans approved of Bush’s response, 12 percent disapproved, and 34 percent said they hadn’t yet made up their minds. Pollsters also asked Americans about Bush’s management skills. Forty-nine percent gave him failing marks on “strong qualities of leadership,” while 48 percent said they still have faith in his abilities. This is a significant reversal from September 2001, when 83 percent of respondents said Bush was an able leader, and a tumble even September 2004, when 64 percent continued to say the same thing.

ADDENDUM II: Now, this is the sort of concern and effort you want from a national leader. According to the Associated Press, former Vice President Al Gore, who has been critical of the Bush administration’s languid response to the Gulf Coast hurricane, “helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president’s son.” These two “mercy missions” took about 140 people, “many of them sick,” to Knoxville, Tennessee, and another 130 evacuees to Chattanooga. Good going, Mr. Gore!

READ MORE:What Didn’t Go Right?,” by Sidney Blumenthal (Salon); “The Post-Katrina Era,” by George Lakoff (The Huffington Post); “The Demise of Compassionate Conservatism,” by Bruce Reed (Slate); “Bush’s Witt-less FEMA,” by David Corn (The Nation); “Bush’s Response to Disaster All Too Typical,” by Doug Bandow (The Japan Times); “Katrina” (The New Republic); “Clash of Representations: ‘Bush the Protector’ vs. ‘Bush the Menace,’” by Norman Solomon (TruthOut); “America Takes a Dive,” Jacques Amalric (Libération); “Tragedy in New Orleans, Torpor in Washington: Katrina Exposes Ugly Aspects of Bush and America,” by Max J. Castro (The Progreso Weekly).

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