When George W. Bush rose to the presidency in 2001, many of us expressed dismay that his well-documented lack of familiarity with policy issues would be a detriment to his performance. Since his previous record included a history of consistent failure, both personal and professional, and a rise to political prominence based almost entirely upon his father's name and powerful political connections, we were concerned that the younger Bush lacked the leadership skills necessary to perform well in the nation's highest office.
But in 2001, most Americans were willing to give the new President the benefit of the doubt. After all, our economy was thriving; we had large budgetary surpluses; the United States was the one remaining super-power in a world that appeared to be increasingly democratic and increasingly more stable.
Then along came 9/11, destroying that stability in the matter of a few frightful hours. At first, Bush displayed forceful leadership in this new kind of war, smashing al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan and ramping up our security efforts both at home and abroad.
But soon, Bush's war on terrorism began tilting toward Iraq, a country that, as we all now know, had no real links with the groups that bombed New York and Washington.
Today, two-plus years after our ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, we are bogged down in the quagmire of guerrilla warfare so many of us feared. We have achieved few if any of our pre-invasion objectives. While initial victory on the battlefield was easily obtained, the post-war struggle for stability has been an abject failure. Incompetent leadership and incompetent execution have become the trademarks of our Iraq misadventure.
That same adjective can so far be applied to Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina, the second great domestic catastrophe of his presidency. The president fiddled (actually, he played the guitar) while Rome burned, in this case ignoring for days the post-hurricane traumas of New Orleans and coastal Mississippi. And as is becoming increasingly clear, the Bush administration's preparation for the impact of this Category 4 hurricane roaring across the Gulf of Mexico was woefully inadequate.
Sadly, this Strike Two against our nation will result in considerably more fatalities than the Strike One of 9/11. Katrina's overall impact -- the million-plus people from all walks of life, for example, now made refugees in their own country -- will far surpass that of September 11th. Can we even contemplate what might happen if another enemy, natural or man-made, throws us another fastball at 98 miles per hour?
Now, when America needs real leadership, we find it sorely absent at the top of the political pyramid. We hope and pray that President Bush can change, and change quickly, becoming the "uniter not a divider" he once promised us all he would be. For we can ill afford to have Captain Queeg at the helm of our ship of state during these most perilous of times.