Kerry Accuses Bush of Leading 'Katrina Administration'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - In a speech reminiscent of the 2004 presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) Monday charged that President Bush is heading a "Katrina administration," an accusation a GOP spokesman called "unsavory at best."

Kerry -- who unsuccessfully opposed Bush in last year's election -- said Hurricane Katrina was a "horrifying disaster" that has shown "Americans at their best and their government at its worst," but "the bottom line is simple: The 'we'll do whatever it takes' administration doesn't have what it takes to get the job done. This is the Katrina administration."

Addressing an audience at Brown University in Providence, R.I., Kerry stated: "Katrina stripped away any image of competence and exposed to all the true heart and nature of this administration.

"The truth is that for four and a half years, real life choices have been replaced by ideological agenda, substance replaced by spin, governance second place always to politics," the senator added.

"Yes, they can run a good campaign -- I can attest to that -- but America needs more than a campaign," Kerry said.

While charging that Bush administration policies have "taken us into a wilderness of lost opportunities," the senator acknowledged that the president last week had accepted responsibility for what Kerry called "Washington's poor response" to Katrina.

However, "there's every reason to believe the president finally acted on Katrina and admitted a mistake only because he was held accountable by the press, cornered by events and compelled by the outrage of the American people, who with their own eyes could see a failure of leadership and its consequences," Kerry said.

"Katrina is a symbol of all this administration does and doesn't do," he added. "Michael Brown -- or Brownie as the president so famously thanked him for 'doing a heck of a job' -- Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence; what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what Tom Delay is to ethics; and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.'

Kerry said Americans would "compensate for government's incompetence" through individual charity, and he said the hurricane's aftermath has created "a rare accountability moment, not just for the Bush administration, but for all of us to take stock of the direction of our country and do what we can to reverse it.

"This is the real test of Katrina," he said. "Will we be satisfied to only do the immediate: care for the victims and rebuild the city? Or will we be inspired to tackle the incompetence that left us so unprepared and the societal injustice that left so many of the least fortunate waiting and praying on those rooftops?"

Kerry told the university audience that it's the government's job to prepare for the future, not ignore it - to solve problems, not create them.

"This administration and the Republicans who control Congress give in to special interests and rob future generations," the senator added. "And the fact is we do face serious challenges as a nation, and if we don't address them now, we handicap your future."

Kerry said he plans to address some of those challenges in detail over the next few weeks. And he said students must "speak out so loudly that Washington has no choice but to make choices worthy of this great country."

Republican National Committee Press Secretary Tracey Schmitt was not impressed with the senator's address.

"John Kerry's attacks on President Bush's efforts to assist the victims and rebuild the Gulf Coast don't come as a surprise -- armchair quarterbacking on tough issues has never been a problem for Sen. Kerry," Schmitt said.

"Such tactics haven't served him well in the past, and today is no exception," he added. "The American people have pulled together during a difficult time, and Democrats' efforts to politicize this tragedy are unsavory at best."

Kerry wasn't the only Democrat from last year's presidential campaign to criticize the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina on Monday.

Speaking before the Center for American Progress -- a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. -- was former Sen. John Edwards, who was Kerry's vice-presidential candidate in 2004 and often spoke of "two Americas," one for the rich, another for the poor.

During his speech, Edwards claimed the president is wrong to believe Americans seek a "wealth society," but instead want a "working society."

"Stand with me today and pledge to work for an America that doesn't ignore those in need and lifts up those who wish to succeed," Edwards said. "Pledge to hold your government accountable for ignoring the suffering of so many for far too long.

"And pledge to do your part to build the America that we have dreamed of -- where the bright light of opportunity shines on every person," Edwards added.

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.