WILL: He's being unfairly blamed, and it sort of serves him right. I'll tell you what I mean by that. June 3, 2008, the end of the Democratic primaries, he gives a speech in St. Paul and he said, "This is the moment at which people will say the rise of the oceans began to slow," in other words, a kind of grandiosity has been part of his and the modern presidency's narrative.
Progressive politics from Woodrow Wilson to Obama have said concentrate power in Washington, concentrate Washington power in the executive branch, concentrate within the executive branch lots of experts, and there's no telling what wonders government can do. This just strikes at the narrative of competence that all of this depends on.
TAPPER: Clarence, you have a column today in the Tribune, "Is This Obama's Katrina?" Is it?
PAGE: Not yet, but it could be, depends on how he handles things from here on. You know, it was interesting. Secretary Powell earlier said that President Obama's press conference the other day might have been better to have made those statements earlier, a few weeks earlier. Hindsight is always 20/20.
But George is right in the sense that, you know, President Obama benefited politically, you could say, from President Bush's Katrina. That was kind of a standard set then rightly or wrongly that presidents are supposed to respond to crises like these in a very visible way and try to capture the public mood right away or suffer consequences, whether they could do something about it or not.
And, you know, I -- years ago, Mike Royko, the columnist, said that we should -- we should appoint a king along with the president who could handle the ceremonial functions and the hand-holdings, the ribbon-cuttings, the -- the speeches after great -- major tragedies, et cetera, so while the president goes about the task of the real management.
In some sense, we're seeing this here, where President Obama is being asked to perform both those roles.
TAPPER: Matthew, you were with President Bush during Katrina, and that was -- you and I have talked about this -- that was something of a tipping point for his presidency. Is this that for President Obama?
DOWD: Well, for the -- for President Bush it was a tipping point, because there was a series of things that had happened before that that built up. The Iraq war, people turned on the Iraq war, and that was a horrible summer for the president, where he -- he didn't meet with the peace marchers, he spent most of his time on vacation, he didn't show up for -- for Katrina right away, and so that basically -- the public finally said, "That's enough. We're done."
And after Katrina, he never recovered. He never got above 43 percent or 44 percent job approval.
I don't think it's this president's Katrina yet. I think the public still is giving -- going to give him room to maneuver and do things. My guess is, it's not until after the midterms when the public finally says, OK, has he done the job? Has he not done the job?
But in the end, whether it's his fault or not, if you want the pomp and you want the power, then you've got to take the pain of the job, and this is part of the pain of the job, when you live in the White House and you fly around on Air Force One. Whether or not you could actually do something on this incident, you have to take responsibility for it.