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Blanco will continue to politicize disasters for campaign

Some observers have speculated that Gov. Kathleen Blanco has, in some way, deliberately delayed disbursements of recovery monies from the 2005 hurricane disasters in order to have them appear closer to next year’s election day to assist her reelection efforts. That explanation seems unlikely – Blanco has been the main reason why it has taken so long for these funds to get out but because it’s probably a function of her ineptitude and unshakeable faith in pursuing blank check, big government solutions controlled by her, which the federal government had to take time to moderate and to allow federalism to play out.

Still, in the upcoming 13 months one can expect Blanco to run a campaign having it both ways. On this issue, she will try to deflect the public’s attention away from her lack of leadership and ideology at cross-interests with Louisiana’s majority by blaming the federal government (or New Orleans’ which does deserve approbation but does not excuse Blanco for her mistakes) while at the same time publicizing heavily that she is (inaccurately) largely responsible for the money that does come dribbling out.

The fact that her main opponent is very likely to be Rep. Bobby Jindal makes even more expected this strategy. With no real positive record to run out, Blanco’s only chance of winning is to emphasize the redistribution aspect of her term, in the hopes that a majority of voters will feel that, in classic Louisiana style, that they have gotten enough goodies doled out to them, while simultaneously attacking Jindal by linking him to the mythology she and others have tried to create that the problems of preparation and response to the disasters were not primarily Louisiana’s and hers, but the federal government’s – and Jindal is part of that organization.

For his part, to counteract this, Jindal must point out how Blanco’s unsuitable actions caused needless harm, emphasizing how the federal government in general and he in particular, steadfastly corrected for Blanco’s dithering and excesses. He must know he cannot out-liberal Democrat a liberal Democrat on the check-cutting part, but must make clear his intervention was helpful in getting the ultimate solution in place, despite Blanco, in a way that provides good stewardship and wise use of taxpayers’ dollars.

Jindal can really negate this Blanco ploy should he be successful on a related issue, getting the federal government to bump up Louisiana’s offshore extraction royalties to levels commensurate with other coastal states to be used to combat coastal erosion. This he should contrast to Blanco’s flailing efforts entailing a wasteful, nuisance suit.

It’s unfortunate that the disaster issue took on political overtones, but from its first hours of it already Blanco was making decisions based upon political considerations. That genie has long left the bottle, and so Blanco’s opponents to win will have to accept that template and use it against her.

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