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Why, sir?

Mr. President,

No one would have blamed you.

As critical as I have been of your policies and administration, it never would have occurred to me to blame you for the devastation visited upon the city of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, nor for inept and obvious mismanagement of the relief efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As Jimmy Carter showed us, in spite of the best intentions a President simply cannot handle all of the tasks of running a country by himself. He needs intelligent, competent people to accept the responsibilities he chooses to delegate.

Which is why it's so puzzling that you have stood by and said nothing about the criminally negligent actions of your subordinates. You have even had the gall to ask, "What mistakes?" when questioned by a member of congress about F.E.M.A.'s response to this devastating catastrophe. With all due respect, sir, this shows either a gross lack of compassion to the survivors of this deadly storm, or that you chose to put the welfare of political associates' careers over the responsibilities you have to the people of this country.

Mr. President, if the people of this country can't count on the supreme executive of this nation to take people to task when they make mistakes, or to correct a grievous error when it is seen, how can we believe that you will protect the rest of us should it become necessary? Will you put the careers of your friends ahead of our lives as well?

There are still thousands of people unaccounted for in New Orleans. The mayor of that city has made a desperate plea for trained firefighters and medical personnel to relieve his city's beleaguered forces. Yet when firefighters from all over the nation respond to the call for help, you sit them in a hotel ballroom and give them a sexual harassment seminar.

Mr. Bush, the people of this country deserve better. No one would have blamed you for the errors that were made by your subordinates. All you had to do was have the courage to call a spade a spade and correct the situation. Instead, you've stood by while mistake after mistake costs more people their lives. You've lacked the courage to stand up for the lives of the weak and the poor. You've buried your head in the sand because for some reason, you believe that if you admit that your subordinates may have made a mistake it will somehow reflect on your ability as a leader.

Well, it wouldn't have. Your lack of courage to take the right action does.

The people of this country deserve better, Mr. President. We deserve a leader who will lead, and not lie to us on reflex whenever something goes wrong.

But now it's too late, sir. Your incompetence has cost people their lives. This isn't a bad budget, Mr. President. This isn't a political scandal or a campaign contribution irregularity.

This is about people dying because you are a coward.

Enjoy your legacy, sir. It's well earned.

Joseph Paul Haines

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