Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) unleashed a furious attack on the Bush administration at a Brown University speech yesterday, upbraiding the president’s response to the hurricane that recently devastated the Gulf Coastand tying it to what he sees as other flaws at the White House.

“This is the Katrina administration,” read prepared remarks posted on 2004 Democratic presidential nominee’s website, www.johnkerry.com. “Katrina is a symbol of all this administration does and doesn't do,” read Kerry’s script, portions of which were included in an e-mail to supporters that ended with a fundraising appeal.

“Michael Brown [Bush’s former emergency-management director] … is to Katrina what [former Iraq administrator] Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what [former CIA Director] George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence; what [former Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what [Vice President] Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what [House Majority Leader] Tom Delay [R-Texas] is to ethics; and what George Bush is to ‘Mission Accomplished’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’”

In a brief interview, Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, called Kerry’s pitch for cash “repulsive.”

In a news release, she said, “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 Senator Kerry. The American people have pulled together during a difficult time and Democrats’ efforts to politicize this tragedy are unsavory at best.”

Kerry’s speech is the latest salvo in a political battle over accountability that has pitted the parties against each other in Washington and federal officials against their state and local counterparts in the Gulf region.

While Kerry’s speech may play well with the Democratic base, Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at George Washington University, said the senator has a tough challenge to pin blame on Bush.