An excess of decorum
The amazing thing is that the Republicans always over reach in their spin. For example, if they simply stuck with the "let's not get into finger pointing" line they might get some slack from critics. But then they have the temerity to come out and actually praise their own performance! Generally speaking, the media has let them get away with their plaudits for incompetence. But in the case of Katrina the evidence before their eyes has breached their levee of cognitive dissonance.
Bush has given the world the perfect soundbite for absurdity with his, "Brownie, your doing a heck of a job" comment.
But then, this is indicative of the way Washington works today. No politician talks about anything without first lacing their comments with profuse praise for everyone around them (even if they then turn around and stab that person in the back). Even Sen. Mary Landrieu, Dem from Louisiana, got caught doing this early on when she went on Anderson Cooper's show and started off the interview by praising Bush's responsiveness! I don't think she was actually basing that praise on any actual action by Bush. She was just doing it because it was the expected opening to make in the standard Washington script.
It is to Landrieu's credit that she took Cooper's subsequent abrading to heart and has since been one of the harshest critics of the administrations response, going so far as to threaten to "punch" Bush if he tries to push the blame on to local officials. Other Democrats are showing similar frustration with the "business as usual" crowd.
It is this kind of excessive decorum in the face of calamity that contributes to the public's general dictaste for politics. Everyone knows these guys don't mean it when they praise each other to the heavens. The cynicism is a poison that pollutes the waters of the body politic. That is why politicians who honestly criticize their colleagues become such instant celebrities among the grassroots (and just as quickly become outcasts in Washington culture where such things just aren't done.)
Politeness and courtesy have their place in society. Indeed, it is sorely lacking in many other sectors of our culture. Maybe the reason is because the politicians in Washington have been hoarding it?