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Is Blanco trying to hide something from Congress?

I guess Louisiana has its own mini-version of the 18-minute gap with Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administration’s initial refusal to fully comply with Congress’ request of official communications, in both what was and was not provided. Congress asked for communications from the days leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina. But her response leaves out almost all e-mail from her, and in parts redacts other material.

Both the Attorney General’s office and Blanco staffers took a black pen (clumsily at time) to some of the content. Since some of the choices made in this regard seem odd (intended to exclude non-official or personal items), it raises questions about the applicability of the content from Blanco’s own communications that did not appear, whether the excluded materials really did not have anything to do with her response. What has appeared to date already has made Blanco look confused, with more of her attention paid to image than to helpful actions.

The administration’s excuse takes a page out of the former Pres. Bill Clinton playbook about defining “is.” Blanco spinmeister/Communication Director Bob Mann argues that the order applied only to personal devices of others that are not covered by Congress' request. (Which, with the redacting, seems odd that so much time and resources would be put into this when there is so much other pressing business on Blanco’s agenda, like bringing the state back.)

But in Blanco’s own lengthy, if unsubstantiated, written version of the events, just to pick the first, unambiguous instance of it:

Governor Blanco begins the day early on Saturday at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Baton Rouge at LOHSEP to participate in the morning conference call led by Colonel Jeff Smith. She prioritizes this call because she wants to hear again that with evacuations set to begin at 9AM that morning,[sic] all parish presidents remain committed to following the phased plan as discussed and agreed upon the previous evening. Throughout the morning, the Governor personally calls parish presidents to verify their plans and to encourage evacuation efforts in compliance with the State's plan.

Blanco wasn’t using her own communication device here, and maybe not for any of these calls, yet she recounts the gist of the conversations and there may well be the exact transcripts in the materials given to Congress. So why is this information included if it falls outside of Mann’s redefinition of “all,” and other communications from her not?

(Mann may seem a bit disoriented by his spinning, too. He speaks of the “perimeters” established by which the redacting would occur, when a veteran journalist as he should know that he really meant “parameters.” And I trust the particular journalist who filed this story to have gotten his choice of words correct.)

This secrecy seems very strange unless, regrettably, Blanco has something to hide. Whatever it is, if anything, it won’t stay hidden long, as Congress has politely informed Mann that it doesn’t recognize his Clintonesque differentiation and to turn over everything before Blanco’s testimony Wednesday (look for that to happen late Tuesday, at the last minute possible). Stay tuned, this could get interesting – and probably not in a way that helps Blanco’s political future.

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