Video: Legacy after Katrina
updated 9/16/2005 2:28:50 PM ET 2005-09-16T18:28:50

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President George Bush once again turned to the nation in a moment of crisis.  But what impact will this crisis have on his presidency and his legacy? 

MSNBC Chief Washington Correspondent, Norah O’Donnell joined 'Countdown’ Thursday before the president’s address to the nation with a special report.

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: White House officials say the president tonight will chart a path forward.  And he will accept some responsibility; take some blame for what went wrong.  The reason in part for this speech is because the president's approval ratings have reached an all-time low, and advisers say the president understands that there must now be accountability.

In his fourth visit to the hurricane zone, the president began the political road to recovery by once again planning to take some of the blame.  Under fire for the administration's slow response to Katrina, Mr. Bush is struggling to shore up his political standing.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, MSNBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Presidents in the past, when they take personal responsibility for a crisis, it almost always helps them.

O'DONNELL: At times, the president has appeared out of touch, flying over the destruction while tens of thousands were left stranded below.  But the first days of the disaster amounted to a split-screen America.

Then, the president resisted finding fault with federal or state officials.  President Bush has tried to avoid the mistakes of his father, who, 13 years ago, was slammed for his administration's lackluster response to Hurricane Andrew.  Back then; the elder Bush named his transportation secretary, Andrew Card, as disaster czar.

It helped, and polls showed 64 percent backed the actions of the former president.  But now, with Card as the president's chief of staff, the reaction has been less supportive.  Only 48 percent approve of the current president's handling of the crisis.

BESCHLOSS: If the president doesn't turn it around, he's likely to be increasingly a lame-duck president, unable to do the kind of audacious things that he would like to do in this second term.

O'DONNELL: And tomorrow the president will speak at the National Cathedral in a prayer service for the storm victims.  Remember, it's something he did after the September 11 attacks, and it's something that Republicans have said the president should have done days ago.

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