Picking a single moment when the Bush administration truly lost all credibility is sort of like finding the episode when Springer jumped the shark--it probably shouldn't have been on in the first place and the badness is so regular that singling one episode out seems pretty silly. But if you've gotta do it, watching passively as a major American city falls apart within a week seems like a pretty solid choice. Kevin Drum:
I've long believed that what really killed Bush was the contrast between his handling of Katrina and his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, which had come only a few months earlier. It was just too stark. What the American public saw was that when the religious right was up in arms, the president and the Republican Party acted. [...]
And it showed that Bush could be moved to action if the right constituency was at risk. It wasn't just that Bush was mostly MIA during the early stages of Katrina, but that he was plainly capable of being engaged in an emergency if it was the right kind of emergency. But apparently New Orleans wasn't it. And that was the final nail in the coffin of his presidency.
That strikes me as more or less it. To that point, despite my opposition to many of the administration's efforts including the Iraq war, I never would've thought to criticize their enthusiasm--if anything, lots of critics would probably have noted that Bush suffered from an overabundance. If Dowd and Bartlett are right that it took Katrina to take the wind out of the administration's sails completely, Bush's second-term apathy and eventual near-invisibility would turn out to make a lot more sense.
Kanye West oversimplified it, I think: the issue is not quite that George Bush doesn't care about black people; it's that the plight of people afflicted by a problem he couldn't solve by flinging money or troops at it was so far off his radar that I don't think he knew that, as president, he was supposed to care about them.
Photo by SIR: Poseyal Desposyni Poet, released under Creative Commons