Partisanship and Katrina

Via Andrew Sullivan's blog I came across this account of a recent talk given by former FEMA director Michael Brown:

Political storm clouds gathered again over the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina as former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said party politics influenced decisions on whether to take federal control of Louisiana and other areas affected by the hurricane.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the partisanship Brown described was “disgusting,” while a White House spokeswoman said Brown was making “false statements.”

Brown told a group of graduate students Friday that some in the White House had suggested the federal government should take charge in Louisiana because Blanco was a Democrat, while leaving Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, in control in his state.

Brown, speaking at the Metropolitan College of New York, said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the devastating hurricane be federalized -- a term Brown explained as placing the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.

“Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'” he said, without naming names. “'We can't do it to Haley (Barbour) because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'”

Incredible. No matter how sleazy and vile you think this administration is, the reality is so much worse.

The article goes on to present Gov. Blanco's reaction to these words:

“This is exactly what we were living but could not bring ourselves to believe. Karl Rove was playing politics while our people were dying,” Blanco said through a spokeswoman, referring to Bush's top political strategist. “The federal effort was delayed, and now the public knows why. It's disgusting.”

Meanwhile, White House spokesperson Eryn Witcher offered this response:

“It is unfortunate that Mike Brown is still hurling false statements about the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “The only consideration made by the administration at the time of this tragedy and since are those in the best interests of the citizens of the Gulf region.”

So we have one side saying the Bush administration was motivated by partisan political considerations and another saying they cared only about the well-being of the people. Which version do you find more credible?


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I find it ironic that many of those who demanded immediate federal intervention into New Orleans and then decried the (admittedly meagre) federal response to the situation are the same ones who would promulgate this story as fact. Like its a bad thing that S. Louisiana would be federalized. It is hearsay first of all, and even if it were the thoughts of one White House employee, I daresay that 99.8% of the people in there actually did care about the situation-- in spite of what the federal response actually was.

As a scientist, ask yourself: what is the more parsimonious explanation?

By doublehelix (not verified) on 20 Jan 2007 #permalink

Ugh. Those quotes don't pass the smell test for me. I think the White House is correct, Blanco is correct and, to a certain degree, Brownie describes a politicised situation. But in his usual bumbling way, Brownie over-reaches his abilities and plays loose with the truth. Badly.

Haley Barbour would receive preferential treatment for a multitude of reasons but being white and male are at the very bottom of the list. Knowing where some of the GOP bones are buried would be one pragmatic reason for letting him have his way. Blanco, on the other hand, is just a Democrat.

Smells like Brownie is still spreading it. I sure hope some of the kids pitched some of his BS right back at him, but, sadly, it isn't very likely these days.

By Matt Platte (not verified) on 20 Jan 2007 #permalink

I ... think I should be discouraged a little at how ready I am to believe that story. That's an absolute horrible story, and worse so if it's even true.

If it is false though, it does represent a curious swing, in that post-9/11, people banked on success by siding with the President and his crowd, but now people, such as Brownie here, bank their success against the President. A turning point.

But, wouldn't it be nice if people could be successful by doing good, and doing well, just for a change of pace.

Incredible. No matter how sleazy and vile you think this administration is, the reality is so much worse.

err. I don't konw about that. I think they are really really vile and, yes, EVIL. Satan incarnate, if I believed in Satan.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest, but I have to say I'm not inclined to take Brown's word for it.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 22 Jan 2007 #permalink

One thing is for sure, the governor of Louisiana was totally worthless. Might as well just merge the state of Louisiana with the District of Columbia, then the people of Louisiana can finally have a unified Big Brother welfare State.

I'm surprised you would post this. Brown is not a reliable source, none of the quotes sound right, and he is obligated to name names if he stands by it.

Sullivan's blog is difficult to read these days. It reads like he is just linking to every newstory he finds and then adds a few words like "Ahem ...", or "Gee, really?". Often, he misundertands what he links to. When called up on it, he always says "I link, you decide." He's less than worthless.