Damned If You Do: Bush Visit Will 'Distract' From CA Firefighting

President Bush has shown that he can be empathetic, sensitive and decisive. But those qualities eluded him for days after Hurricane Katrina . . . He didn't cancel his vacation until two days after Katrina struck and didn't visit the region until four days after the storm. -- "A compassionate Bush was absent right after Katrina", USA Today, 9-9-05
USA Today's broadside is typical of the MSM criticism leveled at Pres. Bush for his failure to visit New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. So, now that President Bush has announced that he will be visiting California on Thursday while the wildfire flames are still burning, naturally the MSM and Dems will put politics aside and laud his decision, right?

I did say "the MSM and Dems."

View video here.

In one of the more ungracious interviews by an elected official I have ever witnessed, John Garamendi, the Dem Lt. Gov. of California, with some "helpful" prodding from Chris Matthews, could not have spoken more sourly about the president's impending visit. Garamendi was a guest on this afternoon's "Hardball."

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Is the federal government doing what it has to do here?

JOHN GARAMENDI: Well, they're doing a lot and we appreciate what they have done thus far. Resources are coming in. The U.S. Forest Service, 70 units from Arizona and Nevada and all that's good. I got some doubt about the value of President Bush coming out here . . .

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's public relations rather than action?

GARAMENDI: Of course it's public relations. The action's taking place by the hard-working firefighters, the men and women and the police that are out there on the line and the community that's pulling together to support each other, that's where the action is taking place. I know -- okay, President Bush comes out, we'll be polite. But frankly, that's not the solution. How about sending our National Guard back from Iraq? So that we have those people available here to help us?
Bonus points to Garamendi for working Iraq in there!

And a bit later, the ungrateful pièce de résistance.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the president's arrival will distract from the efforts to fight the fire?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely. No doubt about it. The president goes some place, you've got a huge entourage, you've got Secret Service all over the place. And all the chaos that comes with whatever the president arrives -- wherever the president happens to arrive. But, listen, what we really need are those firefighters, we need the equipment. We need frankly -- we need our troops back from Iraq. We'll get on here, whether he comes or not that's not really the issue. I just hope that if he does come, he brings more than he brought to New Orleans.

Note: Surprise! Neither Matthews nor Garamendi raised the responsibility of the litigious environmentalists.

Update 10-24: During his opening monologue today, Rush played and discussed Garamendi's comments: "In the midst of this, with people in droves losing everything, two Californians, one a senator [Barbara Boxer], one a Lieutenant Governor [Garamendi] make it their priority to bash President Bush and the war in Iraq. Now I maintain that the country is fed up with this kind of action, fed up with politicizing these things."

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.