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Liberal hack writes Katrina polemic disguised as history

It’s official: it looks like the job of historian for the Gov. Kathleen Blanco administration has been filled, courtesy of Tulane academician Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge.

Brinkley has published an impressive array of books designed to recount history – almost as impressive as, from a 2004 article (premium content) about his previous work the hagiography Tour of Duty about Sen. John Kerry, his being “passionately devoted to just about every liberal cause and cliché – and, in Tour of Duty, it shows.” (The article goes on to show how Brinkley painted a selective, flattering picture of Kerry’s Vietnam days, ignored less-salutory evidence, riddled the book with errors, and then waged pejorative public relations campaigns against his critics.) But it’s something everybody in my profession already knows.

In my Twentieth Century American Foreign Policy course, I use as one of my textbooks his and his late colleague Stephen Ambrose’s Rise to Globalism. Here’s a line from its latest edition from p. 351, summing up their learned, complex, erudite impression of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy: “[R]eagan, despite the sneers of sophisticated critics, who regarded him as an object of ridicule, was somehow doing something right. Or perhaps he was just lucky.”

The voluminous documentation and analysis of Reagan’s foreign policy demonstrates beyond question just how shallow and uninformed this opinion is. And like his Kerry tome, it contains errors in fact, repeating falsehoods (such as the “October surprise”) designed to score partisan points in sections rather than present itself as serious history. (Needless to say, a reason I assign this book is that most of the rest are even less balanced than it, and it gives me a chance to provide contrast and correction to it; yes, Louisiana tax dollars are being used wisely.)

So it’s with little confidence that one should expect to see in Brinkley’s latest effort a dispassionate rendering of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. And, while I’ve not read (nor plan to waste money in order to) read the book, the excerpts of it I have read indicate that he doesn’t disappoint on this expectation.

I’ll stick to juts a few things, demonstrating how he tries to defend the poor, if not politically-driven, crisis management of Democrat Blanco while criticizing the man who beat his friend in 2004, Republican Pres. George W. Bush. He argues that the best course of action for Blanco, when asked by Bush to let the federal government take control of the state’s national guard (for political reasons), was in fact what she did, dither awhile and turn him down. Further, he asserts that, if not too detached, Bush was more interested in acting to shape his image, while Blanco was acting decisively to get buses into the city to evacuate people.

But if Brinkley bothered to read contemporary media accounts, he would know that Bush’s offer would have resulted in quicker action; instead, because Blanco saw the tragedy from the start through an entirely political lens, that was precisely why she delayed on the decision and then ultimately turned down an offer that could have started rescue operations much more quickly. Instead, she was more interested in who got what political credit or not than in getting help on the ground.

This is confirmed by Blanco’s own e-mail messages (some of which she initially tried to hide from investigators) that showed from the moment the magnitude of the crisis became apparent, she already was worried about how she and her actions would appear. She hand her staff obsessed about how they could shift blame to the White House – public documents Brinkley should have known about that absolutely refute his argument. Those same messages also reveal that she was very hesitant about the bus issue, thinking (finally, waiting two days despite her own evacuation plan) to send them, then apparently issuing a recall of them, and then sending them again.

All of this escapes Brinkley. It doesn’t get by local officials who, recently concerning a pending bill that would allow greater state takeover of local government during disasters, opined that the lesson they drew from Katrina was state government was the greatest impediment during the crisis. They felt they should be given the resources in the future, let them do their thing, and keep the state government out of the way.

Given his past behavior and just from these small snippets from this work, it’s a dubious proposition that it represents any thoughtful, informed analysis of the government response to Katrina, and we’ll have to wait for a genuine historical account that doesn’t aspire to the polemics we’ve come to expect from Brinkley. However, while the American people prevented him from getting a job as a Kerry Administration court historian, the good news for him is he seems well-positioned to get that job with Blanco.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good piece, Jeff. But, what do you expect from somebody who just wants to write something which will get him on all of the liberal media outlets like the Today Show, etc. Personally, I was gald his tenure at UNO was brief. I guess Ambrose must have allowed Brinkley to update his "Rise to Globalism" --which I thought was a good book when I took the course in the 1980's by Prof. Jordan, at UNO (obviously prior to the lame attempts at political commentary by Brinkley inserted. I could not believe it when they had hired him. HE's a liberal hack and apologist. He's Tulane's problem now, living proof that Tulane has more in common with the Northeast than it does with New Orleans. LOL! Check out the amusinig find of his work linked to a fiction website:
How appropriate! What's funny is that he is the head of Tulane's center dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt!
As for Blanco's hesitancy is making decisions during the storm, this illustrates how reliant she is on others making desisions for her. She can't do anything without check with "Coach". That's why alot of the emails were done on his blackberry which was not public property and therefore outside the realm of FOIA requests.

Brad Duhe

Brad Duhe