The symbolism was perfect:

“It was an extraordinary scene — the world’s most powerful man standing alone in the middle of a deserted city, far from the pomp of the White House, to speak to the nation,” wrote Deborah Orin of the New York Post.

He saved the rhetorical flourish for last:

“In this place [New Orleans], there’s a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful ‘second line’ — symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge — yet we will live to see the second line.”

It was beautiful and moving. But what about the rest of the speech? Oh, dear. My fellow Americans, this is going to cost us. Big time. But it is the speech he had to give to appease the press and the Democratic left, which has been on the verge of bringing down his presidency.

He had to say, “I hear you.” Not necessarily to those marooned in the Superdome or the Morial Convention Center, who apparently understand it was Mayor Nagin’s failures that deposited them there (“To ABC’s Surprise Katrina Victims Praise Bush, Blame Nagin”). And he had to blame racism, not the welfare culture that made so many people helpless, to appease the press and the Howard Dean Democrats. 

It is ironic that the failures of the federal response, including the disgrace of a FEMA director who knew less than the average CNN watcher, will be met with more reliance on government.(For a more favorable view, see Hugh Hewitt, who says it was a “Good Speech by a Good Man.” Hewitt thinks that the president’s emphasis on entrepreneurship rather than assistance programs means that we’re not headed for New Deal II).