President Bush announcing he’d lead the enquiry into his own government’s response to Hurricane Katrina initially looked like a major tactical error. It’s hard to see how such an investigation could avoid this kind of cynicism.
Yet it’s turned out to be something of a public relations masterstroke and, strangely enough, has showed the power of holding your hands up and admitting you got it wrong. Clearly, Bush had pre-judged the outcome of his enquiry: guilty.
He won’t resign, but his self-flagellation went further than many expected. While many have denied race had a part to play, Bush acknowledged ‘racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America’. That’s an admission bound to upset the more hysterical Bush supporters.
This is a strategy that only works with a guilty verdict. Had Bush submitted to an independent enquiry, he’d have been forced to put up a defence, offer something in mitigation or try to shift blame. And this is what makes self-flagellation a masterstroke: a failed defence would have been a stick for others to beat him with.
Nevertheless, Hurricane Katrina has revealed the Bush’s administration to be naïve and incompetent (a fact that makes those of us who support the Iraq War particularly uncomfortable). and this is bound to be well reflected in history’s verdict of the regime.