Another poll, this one from CBS, shows Bush in the doldrums, though still above the floor his fan base provides -- his approval is at 41%. But with regard to Katrina, there's this:
Hurricane Katrina may give President Bush the opportunity to increase his low approval ratings. In fact, his overall rating did rise on the last day of the poll, after he returned to the White House from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and addressed the nation on the crisis in the Gulf Coast.
... Fifty-four percent approve of the way the President is handling Hurricane Katrina, and only 12 percent disapprove -- but one-third can't say yet. This question was added to the poll on Tuesday, the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf coast.
And while we think there was widespread disapproval of Bush Senior's handling of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, there was polling, a few weeks after the hurricane hit, and Poppy's numbers were just fine:
In September 1992, nearly two-thirds approved of then-President Bush's handling of Hurricane Andrew, while three in 10 disapproved -- but that poll was conducted nearly three weeks after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida.
Meanwhile, I think I see the conventional wisdom starting to solidify. Here's Ron Fournier of AP:
...There's plenty of blame to go around - the White House, Congress, federal agencies, local governments, police and even residents of the Gulf Coast who refused orders to evacuate. But all the finger-pointing misses the point: Politicians and the people they lead too often ignore danger signs until a crisis hits.....
Both the Bush and Clinton administrations proposed budgets that low-balled the needs. Local politicians grabbed whatever money they could and declared victory. And the public didn't exactly demand tax increases to pay for flood-control and hurricane-protection projects.
...Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the United States. The best leaders running the most efficient agencies would have been sharply challenged.
...Robin Lovin, ethics professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said it's too convenient to blame one branch of government when they are all, at some level, failing people. From Watergate to Clinton's impeachment, governmental institutions have disappointed the public.
"Bush, Congress, the mayor - each of them are symptoms of a bigger problem, that we don't have accountability for disasters or challenges of this scale," Lovin said. "That's all the public wants in trying times - accountability."...
Lovely -- "I don't know how this all happened -- I guess it's just everybody's fault equally. Gee, let's ask an ethics professor." Hey, Ron, you want accountability? Tell us who's responsible for what.
But that truth will get lost in the murk. There will be careful media examinations of what happened, both in the years before the levees failed and as the relief effort descended into anarchy -- but far more of the coverage will be in this same "It's all so incomprehensible" vein. And the conventional wisdom will be that it was all too overwhelming to really be anybody's fault.