Monday, September 15, 2008

A Little Vindication for Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

Maybe it was just me but when I heard the address by the five Republican Gulf States Governors during the Republican National Convention it sounded like there were a few digs at former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.


If you recall Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, was Governor of Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina and her handling of that crisis came under fire from both the Bush Administration and local New Orleans officials. As reported in the Washington Post in Sept 2005:

" Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said."
Well life is a funny thing. And as the saying goes, "Pride goes before a fall".

This morning the Associated Press reported:

"Hundreds of first responders at two staging areas in Texas for Hurricane Ike have run out of food and water.

Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) said Sunday that 300 National Guardsmen, state troopers and other emergency workers are going hungry at a high-school football stadium - and at another staging area on Houston's west side.

Culberson blamed FEMA for the gaffe and says he tried to contact Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who is touring flood-stricken areas of Texas.

Culberson says several buses full of gas are sitting idle at the stadium while crews await instructions. He called on area residents to take food and water to the crews at the stadium - despite official warnings for people to stay off Houston roads."

Maybe now Texas Governor Perry has a clearer understanding of how difficult it is to coordinate an emergency response effort when an entire region's infrastructure is destroyed.

I'm not saying that Kathleen Blanco didn't make mistakes. Nor am I finding fault with the current Gulf States Governor's handling of Gustav or Ike.

I am saying that natural disasters aren't partisan and recovery efforts shouldn't be either. And neither should ever be politicized.

And to Sarah Palin ---

Kathleen Blanco was a former Governor with experience in mobilizing the National Guard in a crisis.

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Update 9/16/08 3am

Related posts:

Thanks to my friend Robert for bringing this article to my attention:

"How Rove Played Politics While People Drowned"
by Paul Alexander for

A premium subscription to the site is required to view the entire article but
here is a brief excerpt:

" Instead of supplying relief to the city, Rove had devised a scheme whereby he could blame the failure of government to take action on someone besides Bush. "They looked around," Landrieu says, "and they found a Democratic governor and an African American Democratic mayor who had never held office before in his life before he was mayor of New Orleans -- someone they knew they could manipulate. Ray Nagin had never held public office and here he was the mayor of New Orleans and it was going underwater."

In short, Rove was going to blame Blanco for the failure of the response in Louisiana, and to do that he was going to use Nagin. He had already set the plan in motion on Tuesday with Nagin, who, even though he was a Democrat, was so close to the Republican Party that some members of the African American community in New Orleans called him 'Ray Reagan.' In 2000, Nagin had actually contributed $2,000 to Bush's campaign when he ran for president.

Rove knew of Nagin's ties to the Republican Party, so more than likely Nagin could be convinced to level his criticism at Blanco and to support Bush when he could. Here was Rove's strategy: Praise Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi; praise Michael Brown and FEMA; blame Blanco, the Democrat. It was not a stretch for Nagin. He and Blanco so disliked each other that in Blanco's last race Nagin had endorsed her opponent."

and later in the article...

"While Blanco and her aides watched the federal government do little, they completed the rescues of thousands of people stranded at the Convention Center and the Superdome on their own by commandeering buses from around the state and transporting people from downtown New Orleans to various surrounding cities -- using only the National Guard under Blanco's command. When the federal troops finally did start arriving over the weekend, the refugees had been cleared out. The troops made a show for the media, but they were too late. The damage had been done.

After one of the most agonizing weeks in American history, with Bush and his key department secretaries embarrassed on national television, the blame, despite Rove's efforts to the contrary, ended up being placed firmly on the federal government. The administration, not Blanco and the state of Louisiana, took the hit, especially Michael Brown, who became a poster boy for ineptitude and was forced to resign from his job."

and from the Coffee Conversation Archive:

Will Nancy Pelosi Please Sit Down - 9/10/05

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