Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The levee's gonna break

The extent to which Governor Kathleen Blanco played politics with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is slowly coming out into the open. Her administration in Louisiana recently, and finally, released documentation covering the communication the Governor had with her own staff, with the White House, and with Democratic spinmeisters in the week following the storm.

Robert Travis Scott, writing for The Times-Picayune, has the most informative account I have yet seen on what these documents revealed. It's a story which, predictably, is being ignored by the press on the whole.

The extent to which the press was complicit in covering for Blanco, and the extraordinary effort it made to smear the Bush administration, becomes clear in these passages;

.. an ABC News reporter wrote Blanco's press secretary, "2 senior GOP aides have called me to suggest we should be focusing more blame on Governor Blanco." A New York Times reporter wrote an e-mail message saying, "Several officials in Washington are asserting that the Federal Government should have assumed control of the overall operation . . . As it would have meant, they suggested, better coordination of the response."

In other words, when it was suggested to members of the press that perhaps they should do their jobs and expose Blanco's incompetence, they did not do so. Instead they contacted Blanco’s staff to feed them (dis)information about the White House. You have to wonder; how often do the members of the press, when contacted by Democrat officials, call or email Republicans to notify them of the Democrat position? All right, you don't really need to wonder; it never happens.

This is odd.

On the morning of Aug. 31, Blanco was awaiting a television interview when she whispered a comment to Bottcher, saying she should have requested troops earlier. The comment was picked up off-air and cited as an admission by Blanco that she was tardy in her request for ground troops.

It was cited as an admission? It appears to any reasonable observer as an explicit admission. Further documents hint at the insanity that gripped Blanco and her staff.

"What have we done to counter Bush claim that gov delayed relief because she needed 24 hrs to make some decision?" reads an internal e-mail message by a Blanco administration official.

Documents and interviews show that Blanco wanted to avoid conceding her authority, and during the week she argued that a federalization of all military units would compromise her ability to keep law and order.

The impression given by these documents is certainly that Blanco and her people were far more concerned with conducting a PR war against the White House than they were in the safety and wellbeing of the people of New Orleans. And "compromise her ability to keep law and order"? The entire reason she was asking for federal troops was that she was quite unable to maintain law and order.

"By the weekend, the Bush administration will have a full-blown PR disaster/scandal on their hands because of the late response to needs in New Orleans," according to a Sept. 1 e-mail message sent by Blanco communications director Bob Mann. He attributed the observation to former President Clinton's press secretary Mike McCurry.
Kopplin advised the Blanco staff by e-mail that "we need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts."

Their "national surrogates", of course, were the journalists and reporters of the MSM. As the Democrats expected, they proved quite willing to overlook homicidal incompetence on the part of Louisiana officials in pursuit of their petty vendetta against the Bush administration. Among their number must be counted Mr. Robert Travis Scott, who, in presenting this evidence of political gamesmanship on the part of Democratic politicians, still manages to conclude that Bush (surprise!!) was at fault. For example, although the Guard units from other states could only enter Louisiana under DoD orders, Scott gives the clear impression that this activity was something the States coordinated among themselves, with no Federal involvement.

Other facts which their surrogates did a poor job of explaining to the world were that the city of New Orleans was lawless for several days, and that the only way Federal troops could have restored order was for the President to invoke the Insurrection Act and essentially oust Blanco from her post. If this report is any indication, the dam which the Democratic parties "surrogates" have built to protect Governor Blanco is finally showing a few small cracks.


buddy larsen said...

Great post, Flenser. I'm from 'the zone', and I can tell you that this topic--the murkiness of the politics--which should've been wholly beside the point during the emergency--is tearing up relationships all over the place. The emotions are epic, heading toward Shakespearean, hopefully never to join the storm itself as some sort of Old-Testament death of a city and scattering of a people.

I swear, bad politics is a fire in a forest--can smolder forever, until a big wind comes and burns the whole place down.

buddy larsen said...

This isn't precisely on-topic but what the hell, it's an email I just got (just the latest of the sort), with names removed as I don't have okay to attribute--and it doesn't matter anyway. The point of this paste is twofold, 1) the people need help, and 2) the pols hovering around the Gov's ear are not by any means the "character" of the essential Louisianian (writer of this email is in his late 50s--no spring chicken):
"Wanted to let you know that I have 3 friends here who are well versed (as am I) in Habitat for Humanity projects; we have worked on 10’s of homes for Habitat in Kansas City and CA as well. (I am in CA, the SF Bay area, as are my friends); Habitat has a RV program which is allowing individuals/volunteers who have RV transport (thereby not draining local motels etc) for building in certain areas of Louisiana.

With that backdrop, the 4 of us and our donated RV are going to South Louisiana the week of 1/28 to work on 10 houses, at the Bayou Blue build near Thibodaux, for 2 weeks. We will drive non-stop from N CA to S LA, and then bust our butts for our time there….if this is an option for any of you, here’s a way to “Pay it forward”….

I encourage you to go to the Habitat site and look for their RV program; that’s the only real way to do volunteer building right now, in our local Cajun area….

Other build programs are on-going but the closest I am aware of is in Jackson MS, where they are doing “assembly line” building of homes and trucking them in…

I like being on site and having LA soil under my boot, okay maybe gumbo mud!

I have attached an email message and link, as best I can….join us if you can. I hope to enlist several of my sons to join the effort in late January.

Take care and just do what you can.

This is from Tiffany Turner, a local Habitat volunteer coordinator in Thibodaux area:

Hello, I thought this might be of use to you...it is our plan for hurricane recovery please let me know if any of these dates are of interest to you. Or if you would like to come down a different date than listed below.

Building Blitz on the Bayou
December 10, 2005 – September 29, 2006

Phase I, II, III

Phase I
Quiet Oaks Subdivision, Bayou Blue

35 houses

December 10 , 2005 families selected

Slabs poured by January 8th

January 8 , 2006 – volunteers start on 15 houses

January 15 , 2006 volunteers start on 10 houses

January 28 , 2006 volunteers start on 10 houses

Total = 35 houses completed by March

Phase II

East 22nd Street, Larose

20 houses

February 10, 2006 - families selected

March 2006 – start preparing lots for volunteers coming in April

April 17, 2006 – volunteers start

Total = 20 houses completed by June 17th

Phase III

Raceland and Thibodaux

20 houses ( 15 Raceland, 5 Thibodaux)

April 17, 2006 - families selected

June, 2006 – start preparing lots for volunteers in July

July 2, 2006 – volunteers start

families selected

June, 2006 – start preparing lots for volunteers in July

July 2, 2006 – volunteers start

Total = 20 houses completed by September 29th

Tiffany Turner
Volunteer Coordinator
Bayou Area Habitat for Humanity
P.O. Box 691 : 800 Jackson Street
Thibodaux, LA 70302
Phone/Fax 985/447.6999

Rick Ballard said...

"2 senior GOP aides have called me to suggest we should be focusing more blame on Governor Blanco."

I wonder if the actual conversation was "We can't do a damn thing until that ditz pulls the trigger."

I want to see Sen. Clinton's phone logs for Thursday and Friday prior to Katrina's landfall. Gov. Blanco may be extraordinarily stupid but it takes the low political cunning of a Clinton to sacrifice lives for political advantage (think Waco).

flenser said...


Even assuming that the call went as described, it seems quite amazing that the action of the neutral, impartial, unbiased ABC reporter is not to investigate Blanco, but to fire off a warning to Blanco's press secretary. As with so many other stories in recent years, the reporters were active participants here, not just detached chroniclers of events.

buddy larsen said...

Flenser, for an exact analogy, scroll down a couple inches to "Murtha's Tantrum".

Unknown said...

I don't think Blanco will get off the hook on this.

I have talked to people who are not be any stretch of the imagination partisan Republicans and all of them wonder what Blanco was doing in the days leading up to landfall.

Katrina did not just blwo up overnight.

I think that the pols down there thought they would dodge the bullet again and never really bothered preparing for the worse and then when it came they concentrated on saving themselves, not the people of New Orleans.

And I am not sure most Americans want to see the city built back the way it was.

Rick Ballard said...

"Even assuming that the call went as described"

Oh no, that would presume that there exist "2 senior GOP aides" dumber than wallpaper paste. The entire Travis article is so poorly done that it approaches incoherence. It's as if there was no statutory authority in existence - Blanco and Bush were just winging it. Mr. Travis may have a future with the NYT or WaPo. He certainly knows what to leave out of a propaganda piece.

flenser said...

I can actually believe that some such call took place. Faced with a media which studiously ignored all indications of malfeasance on the part of Louisiana officials, it’s possible that some Republicans in the White House suggested that some scrutiny of Blanco might be in order. I do get the impression that many members of the GOP are convinced that the media are a more or less impartial body, whose mission is to uncover the truth.

It’s incredible to think such people can exist, let alone in the upper echelons of the Republican party, but that appears to be the case. Bear in mind that Rove himself at one time was in the habit of fielding calls from the MSM. I expect that that he has since seen the error of his ways.

Unknown said...


I think it depends on who they are talking to.

Not all journalists are the same, 80% of them are not to be trusted, but there are exceptions.

I would say Fred Barnes and Brit Hume are not exactly driven by a leftist agenda.

But people like that in media are definitely the minority.