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Blanco's Katrina documents show her fumbling, spin control

Iblamefema Gov. Kathleen Blanco, forced by Congress, let more light shine on her administration’s mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina situation, and at the same time gave public view to her attempts to deflect criticism of it.

It’s not surprising that the documents were released late Friday – this is a standard trick by officials to minimize the damage that troubling revelations about them can create by sending them out at the least attentive point in the new cycle. And these materials paint an unflattering picture of the Blanco Administration’s response to the disaster.

The confusion would seem to be evident. The most important document that could be sent, Blanco’s request for federal assistance, she asserts was sent by mail which the White House says it never received. I know Katrina caused problems even in Baton Rouge, but wasn’t there a working FAX machine on the state capitol’s fourth floor on Sep. 2? Or a computer with Internet access? Reading this brings to mind the old excuse when a debt isn’t dealt with in a timely fashion: “the check’s in the mail ….”

And, being that it was known by nightfall of Aug. 29 that New Orleans was flooding, why wasn’t it until Aug. 31 that anybody seemed concerned enough to start commandeering buses? If Blanco and others around the state complain that federal officials should have known what was going on through television reports, why didn’t she know New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and failed to fully implement his own vague evacuation plan and started the process much sooner?

In fact, the only document released that shows Blanco seemed to be on top of things was a timeline based on her own personal recollections, with little evidence to back up its claims. By contrast, much evidence points to an administration that seemed as preoccupied with trying to control public perceptions as it did with dealing with the disaster, even as the disaster continued to unfold.

(Particularly interesting in all of this is that the administration was practicing what it preached concerning news control. No long before Katrina struck, operative Bob Mann was discussing how Blanco’s team should try to manipulate the news through the Internet.)

Given that the public already has formed largely negative impressions of Blanco’s performance, it’s unlikely the lame defense contained in this information will alter much, if at all, the battle of public opinion that Blanco is losing and that will cast a shadow over the remainder of her, likely only, term in office.

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