Search This Blog


Stuck on stupid XI: Blanco tries to catch flies with vinegar

Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s testimonies in front of the House committee investigating the hurricane Katrina disaster and the aftermath featured a tug of war of sorts, where the testifiers seemed to have one agenda, while the questioners had another. While some may call it political posturing, that misses the point that its leaders living in denial makes the state a poor risk in the investment in its recovery.

Testimony from Blanco and Nagin, both Democrats in front of a committee on which the House Democrat leadership has prohibited its members to serve (but permitting them to make kooky inquiries or grandstanding requests), primarily sought to put their governments’ behavior in the best light possible as a prerequisite to being given funding by the federal government, while simultaneously shifting blame to the federal government. Their Republican questioners stuck more closely to the committee’s actual purpose, which is to study the development, coordination, and execution by local, state, and federal authorities of emergency response plans and other activities in preparation for Hurricane Katrina; and the local, state, and federal government response to Hurricane Katrina.

In particular, Blanco’s testimony (her actual testimony differed in small but significant ways from her pre-hearing published remarks, such as with her lie about not taking “executive privilege”) should be reviewed relative to that of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s the week before. The Republican Barbour made hardly any mention of justifying his state’s response to the storm largely because he didn’t need to. By contrast, Blanco came off as very defensive, and especially in her answering of questions petulant and demanding.

So when Barbour asked the federal government to do more and more quickly for Mississippi, he got a largely favorable response from the committee. By contrast, both Blanco and Nagin received withering questions and comments. Blanco in particular seemed convinced that one can catch more flies with vinegar than with honey, by the pugnacious tone and words of her responses to queries about evacuation plans not followed, communications breakdowns, and failures to act in a timely fashion, bringing in partisan political attacks (such concerning the war in Iraq) at times.

(Nagin, now widely seen as an eccentric with no chance of reelection, further cemented that reputation by indulging racist conspiracy nut Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s fantasies about racial discrimination in response. The condemned enjoy special dispensation to say or do whatever they can get away with.)

But Blanco’s intemperance didn’t stop there. She also found openings with which to whine about having to pay Louisiana’s relatively small share of reconstruction costs (and managed to tell another lie in the process). And she’s doing it outside of the committee was well, such as in today’s letter to Sen. David Vitter where she complains of a double standard between treatment for Louisiana and Mississippi.

Clearly, Blanco neither is informed of the Golden Rule, nor does she begin to grasp that Congress has legitimate concerns about handing over huge sums to money to a political administration and legislative majority whose past record more often promotes politics rather than performance. She cannot understand this because she is so thoroughly part of that ethos. And if nothing else, the tone of the hearings should serve as another wake-up call that “donor fatigue” is present precisely because a growing segment of the country understands this fundamental dysfunction of Louisiana’s noxious mix of liberalism and populism that infuses its government at all levels – a notion she did nothing to dispel, by her words or demeanor, during her appearance.

Given the state’s ills of political patronage to ill-advised spending priorities and everything in between, the last thing Blanco needs to be doing is casting critical and misleading stones at her presumed benefactors when she lives in such a thoroughly glass house to begin with. It shows a desire to continue to live in denial, to stay stuck on stupid, and does not exactly build confidence in the state with the rest of the country.

It’s been a bad week for Blanco, who looked partisan in accepting the recommendation to push back elections in Orleans Parish (even as they will be held on time in even more-devastated St. Bernard Parish), like an opportunist with her watered-down version of levee governance reform, and ineffective in front of the committee in both coping with Katrina and in encouraging federal government assistance after the storm. I’m afraid it’ll be up to more capable folks outside of the Blanco Administration to provide the leadership to help Louisiana recover.

1 comment:

oyster said...

Nagin has a huge warchest and is facing no opponent who would be favored over him at the current time. Obviously, things can change quickly and dramatically. However, those who believe he has "no chance" are underestimating him greatly.

Would they be willing to give, say, 10,000 to 1 odds on him not being re-elected? I'll take those all day.