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Louisiana sees through LeBlanc's dishonest history rewrite

One reason why Gov. Kathleen Blanco will not be reelected – and cannot seem to understand that – is, by the communications of her administration, that it seems to think that the Louisiana public is comprised of sheep that cannot think for themselves.

There may be some truth to that belief – witness the fact that Democrats/liberals/populists keep getting elected to office, Blanco included – but, by and large, the hurricane disasters of 2005 have startled many out of their somnambulant conditions regarding state government. The magnitude of the impacts of the disasters on peoples’ personal lives has re-engaged the critical faculties of many.

So when Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc tries to paint stripes on a horse and call it a zebra in a letter reprinted in the Louisiana press, we can see the paint. In the letter, LeBlanc proclaims that the failed response of Blanco to Katrina’s invasion wasn’t really that because she couldn’t be held responsible for government’s actions or inactions because former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Michael Brown said dealing with Katrina’s impact “was beyond the capacity of the state and local government.”

Very true, but LeBlanc here uses a strange logic that tries to deflect us from the truth. He wants us to believe that we should interpret Brown’s comments to mean “beyond the capacity of any state and local government” which then would, as LeBlanc writes, mean that what Brown “told a congressional committee in Washington last September that the blame lay on the doorsteps of the governor are now proven to be untrue.”

Uh, not quite; not even. With his mode of thinking displayed here, I wouldn’t mind being an alcoholic panhandling outside of LeBlanc’s office, because I could be assured that he reliably would hand me more money to drink away, telling me, “It’s not your fault, it’s beyond your capacity to sober up, I don’t blame you,” when, in fact, the right attitude and willpower can be provided by the responsible person to help himself out of this unfortunate condition.

What LeBlanc doesn’t understand that Brown’s remark really meant that Katrina was “beyond the capacity of Louisiana state and New Orleans local government,” not any or all state and local governments. And what LeBlanc won’t admit to us is the reason why it was “beyond capacity” was because Louisiana state and local governments by their own inept actions stunted their capacities to respond adequately.

Documentation is extensive about how state and local emergency plans were a joke, how Blanco seemed unable to issue the correct orders even though she had had a chance to learn the ropes a year previously, and how she seemed confused and paralyzed by the crisis. In fact, LeBlanc even authors an outright falsehood, that Blanco’s “pleas for massive outside help went unheeded” since she dallied and ultimately turned down Pres. George W. Bush’s offer to send in troops under federal control.

(Ironically, as LeBlanc’s letter was being reprinted across the state, more egg got thrown on the Blanco Administration’s face as more details about the “Hurricane Pam” exercise became available that directly impugned his argument. The report pointed out the inadequacies of the state’s then-planned response – a full year before it really happened with Katrina during which time Blanco did little to correct the clearly-identified shortcomings that she could.)

To summarize, LeBlanc seems unable to grasp that just because Brown said he bore much blame for inadequate response that this does not automatically absolve Blanco of blame herself. Her actions are a matter of public record, and they are decidedly unflattering. By all means, let’s heed LeBlanc’s advice to not “make political gains in the middle of this tragedy” – starting with LeBlanc himself by his disavowing his attempts to rewrite history.

Closing, LeBlanc asks that observers of the situation move along from assigning blame. Agreed, but this does not give him license to distort the record. Because before they can be effective leaders in the state’s recovery, LeBlanc and Blanco need to be honest with themselves and with the Louisiana public, who can see through all of this chicanery.

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