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Some Louisiana elected officials have looked like statesmen

It’s clear that Dallasite New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, through their ill-preparation and lack of execution, increased the misery wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and that Sen. Mary Landrieu has set new standards in pots calling kettles black through her criticism of Pres. George W. Bush and his administration that she deserves much more than they. But how have other elected officials other than these Democrats who could have done things to reduce these miseries reacted?

So far, while Republican Sen. David Vitter hasn’t been criticizing the Bush Administration specifically, he’s been handing out failing grades left and right to everybody but himself. But he needs stop chunking stones out of his somewhat-glass house before he politically damages himself because, like Landrieu, having been in Congress for many years he is open to the charge that he did too little to steer federal dollars to worthy flood-control projects. Unlike Landrieu, at least, he didn’t use influence to encourage money to go to marginal projects.

Democrat local and state officials for the most part have looked or made themselves look foolish over the incident (who can forget Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard’s meltdown as he blamed the federal government for everything, accusing it of murder, and praised Blanco to the sky, while interviewed right after him Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour painted a completely different picture of the federal effort – same federal government, different states, different results, so how could the federal government be mainly responsible for Jefferson Parish and Louisiana government’s inadequacies?). But one Democrat who has looked good is U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon.

Melancon, a freshman whose district bore the direct brunt of the storm, doesn’t carry the baggage that Landrieu and Vitter potentially do. He has been low-key in his criticisms and, unlike practically every other Democrat, has not sounded shrill, out-of-control, or even deranged in assessing the situation. Given his tenuous chances for reelection, he has to be like this.

(I’m not counting Rep. William Jefferson, who has been inaudible even though his district is ground zero for the economic devastation wrought by Katrina, no doubt because he has had a political/legal catastrophe of his own that apparently has gotten his tongue concerning all other matters.)

However, the official standing to gain the most political mileage in the aftermath of the hurricane is Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal. His district got hit with almost the full fury of Katrina, and he lost his (recently-acquired) home. He has offered both measured praise to the federal government and mild rebukes to bureaucracy (everybody’s favorite whipping boy) at all levels while trying to stay focused on what to do next. In all he has come off looking best and, also a Congressional freshman, cannot get blamed for any sins of emergency preparedness committed prior to this year.

This would not be good news for anybody interested in the job Jindal is said still to covet, the governorship. Now that Blanco’s words and actions have provided immeasurable fodder for potential 2007 opponents, and he perhaps is the only politician who has appeared competent and statemanslike throughout this trying period, a replay of that election as of today (if it were physically possible) would make him the clear winner, even if others such as Vitter also ran for the job.

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