Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. …John Tierney's column today is right on message. Tierney does acknowledge federal failures, but he tries his best to change the subject.
In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is … working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.
"The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials."
That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line.
The liberals bewailing the insensitivity and racism of Republicans in Washington sound like a bad rerun of the 1960's, when urban riots were blamed on everyone but the rioters and the police. Yes, the White House did a terrible job of responding to Katrina, but Democratic leaders in New Orleans and Louisiana didn't even fulfill their basic duties. …
The federal officials who had been laboring on a one-size-fits-all strategy were unprepared for the peculiarities of New Orleans, like the high percentage of people without cars. The local officials who knew about that problem didn't do anything about it - and then were furious when Mr. Bush didn't solve it for them.