Bush Fights Back: A Timeline

President hauls self out of harm's way with speech after speech after speech

 WASHINGTON, D.C.—While many people see the presidency of George Bush as falling apart, the president may have just hit it lucky and instead be on the comeback trail.

Since his Hurricane Katrina debacle, Bush has been pumping out a carefully crafted election-style P.R. campaign of speeches, photo ops, and statements all aimed at improving his standing—and that of the Republican Party—with the public. A recent Gallup poll, for instance, shows a slight uptick for Bush. Check out this latest from Gallup: “Late October and mid-November Gallup Polls showed Americans, by a 54% to 45% margin, saying the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq. The new Dec. 9-11 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows a more evenly divided public, with slightly more saying the war was not a mistake (50%) than saying it was (48%). The last time supporters outnumbered opponents on this measure was in late July.”

In his address on Wednesday, Bush even admitted making mistakes in the Iraq war, sort of.

photo: Eric Draper/whitehouse.gov

The president conceded: “It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong,'' Bush said today in the final speech in a series intended to outline his Iraq strategy. “Given Saddam's history and the lessons of September the 11th, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision.”

Here are the highlights of Bush's march to respectability, beginning with Katrina:

September 2: Bush fights back, touring hurricane-stricken areas of the South. In Mobile, he talks about the efforts of FEMA and its director, Michael Brown: "Again, I want to thank you all for—and, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24—(applause)— they're working 24 hours a day."

September 5: Bush again heads down South for more photo ops. Promising government help, he says, choking up, “This is just the beginning of a huge effort,"

September 6: The president is seen getting down to work. He meets with his cabinet and and announces an investigation into the Katrina response. “What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Bush says. "We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm.”

September 9: Bush visits Capitol Hill to discuss a “joint bipartisan investigation,” with Speaker Dennis Hastert.

September 15: Bush speaks live from Jackson Square in New Orleans: “Tonight I propose the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment, tax relief for small businesses, incentives to companies that create jobs, and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again. It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity; it is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty; and we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.”

September 23: With Hurricane Rita approaching and criticism of the government's response to Katrina growing, Bush hits the road. He starts out to see for himself hurricane preparations in Texas, but cancels the trip at the last moment because, as his spokesman Scott McClellan explains to reporters, he "did not want to slow the [hurricane preparations] process down" while personnel were on the move, according to McCllelan. Instead, Bush goes to Peterson Air Force Base, HQ of the Northern Command, but then changes his mind and goes to Colorado, where he declares, "Our federal government is well organized and well prepared to deal with Rita. The first order of business now is search and rescue teams, to pull people out of harm's way.”

October 4: At a White House press conference, Bush tries to look tough on spending while promoting hurricane relief: “Congress needs to pay for as much of the hurricane relief as possible by cutting spending. I'll work with members of Congress to identify offsets, to free up money for the reconstruction efforts. I will ask them to make even deeper reductions in the mandatory spending programs than are already planned. As Congress completes action on the 2006 appropriations bills, I call on members to make real cuts in nonsecurity spending."

October 11: Still pushing aid to the South, Bush, with Laura in tow, visits Delisle Elementary School, Pass Christian, Mississippi, for photo ops with the kids: "We're delighted to see that the schools of Pass Christian are Blue Ribbon schools. They have been Blue Ribbon schools before and they'll be Blue Ribbon schools in the future."

October 13: With Iraq elections two months away, Bush opens a new front in his P.R. campaign with a video address to U.S. troops: “One of the tactics of the enemy is to shake our will. Part of their strategy is to use the killing of innocent people to get the American government to pull you out of there before the mission is complete. I'm going to assure you of this, that so long as I'm the president, we're never going to back down, we're never going to give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory. It's important for you to know that; it's important for the enemy to know that, as well."

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