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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Analysis: Bush fights back
By Justin Webb
BBC Washington correspondent

President Bush

President Bush said the federal government was going to spend money in the south until the job of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina was done. That is something that I think will have surprised some of his own supporters, but pleased a lot of Americans.

He also repeated that he took responsibility for the things that had gone wrong - and promised a thorough and immediate review of the emergency plans in every major US city.

Mr Bush did also try, in terms of tone, to adopt a tone that was less jaunty than the one he has had in the last two weeks. It was much more sombre and one that really fitted the measure of what the nation's facing.

The president's approval ratings have really been seriously diminished by this disaster.

They were not at first which is odd and interesting. In the first few days, people seemed to be divided along party lines. But then a settled view appeared to develop among the US public that he just had not got the measure of the situation.

Clinton-esque speech

This was an attempt to fight back at a political level.

Many questions are being asked on the right: Whatever happened to reducing the deficit? Where is this money going to come from? What are we going to be doing about cutting taxes?
But, I think there is a lot of substance in this speech and some of it is really quite shocking to conservative Americans, his core supporters.

For instance, when he talks about the poverty in the region having "roots in a history of racial discrimination" and "we have a duty to confront the poverty with bold action".

To some people that will be obvious. But to a lot of conservative Americans, poverty is a matter of individual luck and individual failing and is certainly not something that can be combated by government.

The entire speech was one that the former US Democrat President Bill Clinton could have given.

It was fascinating that President George W Bush decided this was the speech he had to give now.

Public response

People have been very surprised about the president's line on poverty and the federal funding promises.

Some conservatives, particularly those in think-tanks, are already saying this is a real shock, they do not know quite what he is playing at, and are wondering what other commitments this is going to lead to.

Many questions are being asked on the right. Whatever happened to reducing the deficit? Where is this money going to come from? What are we going to be doing about cutting taxes?

From the left, there has been a more positive response.

The Democrats are saying this is the rather more comforting language that the president should have used all along.

It will be fascinating to see in the few days ahead what the American public make of it.


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