The Note: Prime Time Live

WASHINGTON, Sep. 14

NEWS SUMMARY

Take Katrina out of the mix and these would still be crazy, overloaded times for the Bush Administration.

The presidential agenda and burden: Iraq, Iran, China, United Nations reform, gas prices, tax reform, Social Security reform, tax cuts, immigration reform, two Supreme Court confirmations, trade, and stopping a flu outbreak.

So/but with all due respect to today's Iraq carnage, the Roberts hearings, and the POTUS United Nation's speech and bilats (and to prove how forward looking The Note can be), we posit that the Thursday night address to the nation at 9 pm ET is the key to the whole week (and maybe the second Bush term. . .).

It is the first, best opportunity to turn the focus to rebuilding and optimism from blamegamedisasterBrownieyou'redoingaheckofajobdeadbodiestvpictures
Idon'tthinkanybodyanticipatedthebreachofthelevees.

An Administration official tells ABC News that tomorrow night's speech is in response to something "unlike anything" the President has had to address, so the speech will be different than anything he has ever delivered, but there are some comparisons. In some ways, it will be "explanatory" like the President's 2001 stem cell speech. It will have the "feel" of an address to the nation, rather than a rally or state of the union speech, although like a SOTU, it will lay out a strategy.

Tomorrow's speech and Friday's National Day of Prayer will serve as a two-act play intended to "elevate the discussion," get the focus off of the recriminations, and try to get the country pointed towards reconstruction and healing.

The President will "sketch a vision of the future," and "has this in his bones at a granular level," but executing it is the challenge, especially on race and class.

The speech will deal with the racial component of Katrina, and this official acknowledged that the Bush-RNC efforts to reach out to African-Americans have been "hurt a lot" by what's happened. And the White House realizes that "one speech doesn't solve this" for a party that was already suffering a credibility deficit with minorities.

So while White House speechwriters and the President himself grapple in the next two days with what he should say (and how he should say it. . .), defining the Katrina politics environment are three must-read stories:

1. The Washington Post's VandeHei and Weisman have the best story yet on the White House search for conservative policy ideas to deal with the storm's aftermath, while still deferring to the wishes of local and state officials. (The pair also break news on the potential plan to suspend the wage supports for service workers contained in the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act -- a move which labor experts say may be "unprecedented," and which would rile up Democrats after the earlier Bacon-Davis action.) LINK

2. Slate's John Dickerson writes that if Democrats are to capitalize on Katrina they need to cast the issue in terms of homeland security as Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid have been doing rather than in terms of race as Howard Dean has been doing. It's Daddy Party time, Dickerson says. LINK

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