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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Politics can wait: Katrina is a big enough challenge

President Bush's first defining moment was his response to 9/11. Rudolph Giuliani, as mayor of New York, also made a national reputation for himself during that tragic time.

Will Hurricane Katrina damage Mr. Bush's reputation as a crisis manager and hurt his Republican Party in elections to come? Will it give Alabama Gov. Bob Riley a badly needed boost as he moves toward an expected re-election bid in 2006?

The proper answer at this point is "Who cares?"

Some people are asking political questions, but they are premature this soon after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. What's important right now is for national and state leaders to help those who were injured and displaced, account for the missing and dead, comfort the mourning, and begin rebuilding.

Political leaders need to be out front — taking charge and making sure the right things get done at the right times. But any of them thought to be grandstanding at such a tragic time will suffer, not gain, politically.

When the right time comes, leaders' handling of this crisis will be one appropriate standard by which to judge them politically — certainly more fitting than the silly issues on which many elections turn.

But leadership does not consist of the handling of one episode. Remember that Mr. Giuliani came into 9/11 with a successful record running his city. He was the mayor who made Times Square safe.

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