Matthew Dowd, Bush’s pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign: Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn’t matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn’t matter. P.R.? It didn’t matter. Travel? It didn’t matter. I knew when Katrina—I was like, man, you know, this is it, man. We’re done.
But the real context is Iraq, Iraq and that war being waged on our terrors. All the promises of progress, all the assurances of necessity and trust as vague, dark things were steadily, steadily intimated…
The event, assuming its proper name of Katrina, and manifest in the form of a hurricane, peeled away all that belief, all that desire to believe, and confronted people with an unreconcilable reality of a callous disdain for those they ruled, a willful ineptitude.
Once New Orleans looked like Baghdad, it became almost impossible to believe that, in either place, the fantasy of salvation that fed our desire to be led would, could, or even should be fulfilled.
An Oral History of the Bush White House: Politics & Power – Vanity Fair