Saturday, December 03, 2005
Blanco's Staff Played Politics While New Orleans Drowned
Check out this story
E-mails turned over by the state to the congressional committees investigating the hurricane response show that the governor's senior staff was deeply involved in trying to preserve the governor's political standing and make sure that the White House was blamed for the slow pace of the initial response.
"We need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts -- that the federal response was anemic and had been shortchanged by budget cuts and avoiding responsibilities like protecting Louisiana levees and wetlands," Chief of Staff Andy Kopplin wrote to senior staff on the morning of Sept. 4, six days after Katrina made landfall.
At the same time, however, the governor's staff was sensitive to any notion that the federal government was taking control of the response from state officials.
"(Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael) Chertoff is now saying that the federal government 'is in control of New Orleans,' " Blanco Communications Director Bob Mann wrote in response to Kopplin. "(Brig.) Gen. (Mike) Fleming (of the Florida National Guard) is ready to say at the 11 a.m. briefing that that is not correct. The LA Natl Guard is in charge."
The exchange came two days after a private meeting aboard Air Force One in which President Bush asked Blanco to cede control over the National Guard forces in Louisiana to the federal government. Blanco refused.
After New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had been quoted in news reports as saying Blanco responded to Bush's request by asking for 24 hours to make a decision, assistant chief of staff Johnny Anderson sent a Sept. 4 e-mail to Kopplin advising that, "We have to get this in check."
Kopplin's response did not dispute Nagin's claim, but again implied that the Bush administration was to blame for the slow response.