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Political future in doubt, is Blanco slipping into panic or PR mode?

Now that a semblance of control has been established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the two politicians most tarnished by the whole disaster, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, have gotten heads to start rolling in desperate attempts to give their political careers new life.

New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass without warning announced he was bailing out. The department had met with heavy criticism for its inability to organize and execute after flooding began Aug. 29. Roughly 15 percent of the force, undermanned relative to others, abandoned posts in its aftermath, calling into question the force’s discipline. The force also has suffered an undue amount of corruption within its ranks, reducing its effectiveness and citizens’ willingness to assist it, in the past couple of decades.

However, some of the abandonment was due to officer disgust over Nagin’s refusal at first to crack down on looting. Thus, to deflect from this, it’s likely that Nagin pushed for this resignation, as it would be an extremely odd time for a police chief to just up and leave his officers, after putting in about a quarter century in the department, only a couple of weeks after saying he wanted to stay on for a long time, but just days after Nagin rescinded orders from Compass (that he himself may well have given) about disarming citizens that drew a successful restraining order from the National Rifle Association. That probably was the last straw as Nagin looks for a fall guy to distract from his poor performance after the storm.

Now there's been a report that Compass got the heave-ho because in the polling of the department after the storms, too many phantom officers are being discovered (which may explain why it's so undermanned). If this turns out to be true and Nagin is connected to this, he needs a fall guy to deflect criticism or even prosecution; if not, he was derelict in his duties as mayor to not have discovered this after over two years on the job.

Former Gov. Mike Foster holdover Andy Kopplin fell on his sword for Blanco. Blanco announced her chief of staff in name had been transferred to new duties involving the state’s reconstruction. Translation: he’s been demoted because of the disastrous public relations hits Blanco has taken as a result of her poor performance after the storm and her and her staff’s inability to control the damage to her career (which no doubt will be on display today as she testifies in front on Congress.)

(In his place comes part of the Lafayette Mafia, Regents employee Jimmy Clarke, an old pal of Blanco’s but particularly of her husband’s from their days at the now-University of Louisiana at Lafayette. With having to give former Louisiana Democratic Party chairman Jim Bernhard the heave-ho because of his leadership of The Shaw Group and the no-bid contract it got for post-Katrina reconstruction – a story totally missed by the mainstream media in its fetish for trying to make the Bush Administration look bad – Blanco needed to get another familiar face on board from her campaign and transition team to right her sinking political ship.)

But most interesting was Blanco’s statements about why she was doing this:

“We’re no longer a typical governor’s office,” Blanco said…. “We don’t know if it’s a permanent new structure or will have to last the rest of my administration …” Blanco has realigned duties in all branches of her administration so that each agency has staff and a new mission focused on Katrina recovery.

This smells of the beginnings of panic, or at least an attempt to try to create a "war-footing" image of Blanco in order to dispel a picture of her as indecisive and crumbling under the pressures of office. Either one can’t be good for the recovery trials and tribulations ahead for Louisiana.

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