On Thursday President Bush will return to Louisiana to deliver a prime-time address about Hurricane Katrina and the relief effort. Given the careful attention this White House pays to staging events, and given the ongoing political cleanup from the FEMA fiasco, the president will undoubtedly try to pick a venue that is loaded with meaning, signifying competence, compassion, and hope all at once.
Yesterday, I asked readers to offer their suggestions for locations where President Bush should speak and also where he will speak. On the first question, many offered Bourbon Street, Pat O'Brien's bar, or Café Du Monde. Some played at home. Many answers are unprintable. When the White House gives the location of the speech, I will post the contestant who correctly predicted it. In advance of that announcement, however, here are some winning answers to where the president should give the speech and why:
Outright winner: Dee Dee Myers
He should speak from Jackson Square, with the St. Louis Cathedral in the background. It's one of the oldest sites in the city, the cathedral has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt twice, it's in the historic French Quarter, it's the spiritual and cultural center of the city. It's also on relatively high ground these days.
Most earnest: Daniel Manning
Pres. Bush should stand on the 17th Street levee in view of the water being pumped from New Orleans, the impromptu repair job, and the receding waters of the Crescent City. He should be flanked by Lt. Gen. Honore, the new FEMA chief, the governor, the mayor, and a handful of rescue workers. The rescue workers should include police and firemen from all across the country, Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard members. Red Cross workers, Salvation Army volunteers, foreign aid workers, as well as any others who are assisting New Orleans in their recovery. The message should be that there were mistakes made, but instead of waiting for time to "play the blame game," the nation is adapting and learning on its feet. Recovery is taking place today in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We are a strong, resilient, agile nation who can meet adversity.
Most creative use of local scenery: John McGill
He should speak from the banks of the Mississippi, with the river (and no identifiable buildings or infrastructure) behind him. The river would have a soothing effect, reinforce the notion that Mother Nature is able to heal wounds over time. Lights reflecting off the water would be a bonus.
Most unlikely (and most frequent response): Nicholas Eckert
Standing in front of the Superdome, with holes and human waste in plain view, would go far to explaining to the public that, yes, he's finally seen how badly things have gone on his watch. Better yet, he could pick a spot at the Convention Center.
Bad joke repeated most often:
Trent Lott's porch.