Because the world lives on soundbites, the fact that Governor Blanco refused to federalize the response makes it sound like she slowed them down. A 10-second sound bite might explain that she merely balked at the political hardball that could have meant she was set up as the patsy.
It would have been an insult to the National Guard to put them under federal control. As Gen. Russel Honore said this morning on CNN, he doesn't want the feds in charge - he's happy with the way things are. But Blanco's refusal to cave in to the obviously incompetent Bush folks is part of why they apparently disinvited her to today's Bush photo-op.
Here's my blog from Saturday at 4:20 -
HERE'S HOW THEY PLAN TO GET AWAY WITH IT
I can imagine Karl Rove and our Cowboy in Chief going over the talking points now:
- Blame the Democratic Mayor and Governor - Admittedly, Governor Kathleen Blanco's dithering makes that easy to do, but we have a federal government precisely for those times when local resources and planning fail. And Rove certainly knows that most of the folks in waist deep water this past week probably weren't Bush voters to begin with.
- Whom do you identify with? - Do you see yourself struggling among those decent but desperate folks at the Convention Center or the SuperDome? Or do you see yourself cowering at the Ritz Carlton among the tourists (or outside the city with the rescue workers), terrified to the point of paralysis by uncontrollable fears of looting and violence?
- - The double whammy - FEMA Director Michael Chertoff has invented a new category -- the "Ultra" disaster -- as an excuse for why they failed so miserably. It's almost as if he's saying we should feel lucky that New Orleans gave us a chance to understand this new phenomenon and practice during a real-world training exercise. That works only as long as you ignore the fact that experts have been warning about a one-two punch from hurricane followed by levee failure for years. But repeat this long enough and at least some people will believe it. (Rush Limbaugh and the other members of the right-wing buzz machine can be counted on to help.)
- Co-opt as many Democrats as possible - At the end of the day, many politicians know that tomorrow it could just as easily be their time in the barrel. Better be nice to your opponents today in the (usually misplaced) hope that they will cover your posterior tomorrow. So even after former ambassador and Senator Carol Moseley Braun launches into a scathing indictment about how black are being treated like animals in New Orleans, she stops short of blaming the president. And the ever-ambitious Bill Clinton gives Bush political cover by saying the federal response was as good as it could get.
One of the sadder side effects of the alarmist rumors mongered mostly on Fox News is that the drama changed from one of compassion for the victims to fear of the predators. Sure, there were some truly dangerous people there -- and they were preying on the same people who were too weak to repel them the week before, back when the national and international media were not there and nobody cared.
This is the same fear that led people to flee our "dangerous" cities after the long, hot summers of the Sixties rather than invest the resources to fix the problems.
Today's fear echoes back even further. Remember that a toxic combination of racial fear and rumor once allowed many otherwise seemingly "normal" people to get caught up in the frenzy that resulted in more than 5,000 lynchings nationwide between the Civil War and the end of the Fifties.
And as long as the only people questioning whether institutional racism had anything to do with the slow response are African American, it will be easy to brush off the complaints as the same old predictable rhetoric.
The challenge for all of us who know better is to continue making the case:
- Don't Forget What You Saw - Those families at the Convention Center and the SuperDome weren't rioters and looters. This administration's ineptitude allowed babies in this country to die of thirst and starvation. Third World countries did better after the tsunami.
- My Pet Goat/Baghdad Revisited - We have a disconnected president incapable of keeping us safe, surrounded by administrators who exhibit a greater sense of urgency when passing tax cuts than in trying to save people.
- We Need Leaders Who Can Keep Us Safe Now More than Ever - The biggest threats to our country right now may well be bird flu and global warming, not terrorism. But no matter the threat, we need leaders who know how to assess the risk, make realistic plans and execute them. New Orleans proved that Bush and his crowd either cannot or will not do what it takes to keep us safe.