This is frankly old news about how it took five days before the White House sent Federal troops.

I heard that it was delayed because Blanco refused to turn over the State of Louisiana under martial law to Bush and Karl Rove.  Of course, this was considered unsubstantiated lefty speculation.

But I’ll bet you Dyan ‘Mama D’ French would believe it.

And we’re getting closer to confirming how and why, and whether those same lefty suppositions had credence.

The Times-Picayune has been sifting through Governor Kathleen Blanco’s unprecedented release of thousands of documents–released to remove all doubt about her actions before, during and after Katrina hit the Crescent City.   What did it come up with?

Bush wanted a single, hand-picked National Guard “yes man” commander in New Orleans.

Here’s how reporter Robert Travis Scott sought to answer the big question why aid to New Orleans was delayed, via Chris at a little known blog and website called Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch, an arm of the Institute for Southern Studies.

Scott is addressing his points on the eve of Blanco’s appearance before the House congressional committee on the feeble and ultimately death-dealing state, local and Federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

In her 16-page overview of those documents, no topic consumes the governor more than the policy decision of bringing federal troops such as the 82nd Airborne into New Orleans to supplement National Guard units.

The documents show that the White House delayed its decision to deploy federal troops while it pressured the nation’s senior National Guard official to persuade Blanco to accept the president’s hand-picked commander to run the entire response effort.

The records also reveal a Democratic administration in Baton Rouge seized with anxiety that the media, swayed by a Republican spin machine, would make it appear that the relief effort would improve overnight if the president took control, and that Blanco was dragging her feet to invite federal help.

Meaning that Karl Rove had been unleashed?   As the governor’s Chief of Staff Andy Kopplin wrote in one e-mail, “Rove is on the prowl.”

And that spin machine with its talking points has never let up from the get-go.  In fact, it was definitely in play on Wednesday.  From USA Today:

Blanco admitted mistakes were made but repeatedly defended her state’s evacuation efforts, which Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky and others said were too little, too late. Blanco told the lawmakers that 1.2 million people in the affected area of southeast Louisiana were evacuated before Katrina hit on Aug. 29.


Rogers waved the state’s emergency response plan and demanded to know why a mandatory evacuation was called 19 hours before Katrina made landfall, instead of the 72 hours required. Blanco responded: “We’re not going to sit here and be accused of not doing everything in our power” to get people out.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said there was no excuse for delaying evacuation. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., criticized Blanco for rejecting federal troops even as she recalled National Guard commanders from Iraq to deal with the disaster. Miller asked why dozens of buses that could have driven residents to safety weren’t used and ended up flooded.

“All this talk (about the past) is an excuse not to do anything in the future,” Blanco responded.

All the fingerpointing, Chris of Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch says, appears to obscure the obvious.  One, that Blanco had verbally asked for Federal assistance from Bush although Scott says that Blanco never instigated the so-called essential paper trail.

On the day Katrina hit, Blanco told the president by phone, “We need everything you’ve got,” according to the governor’s overview.  She has not contended that she said anything more specific, and her staff cannot point to any documents demonstrating she requested federal troop deployments that day.

A Bush administration official said Blanco did not ask for federal troops on Aug. 29.

But how specific does one need to be about a hurricane about to hit your home state?  This is essentially mind-fucking.  It goes back to the later, desperate call made to one of Bush’s assistants, and the woman asking the governor to fax her a copy of the original letter she sent to Bush, rather than read it from the state’s website.

Two, Chris thinks the fingerpointing is also keeping us from thinking out of the box:

Let’s step back and ask a question:   Why was an administration made up of states’ rights Republicans pushing for a federal take-over of the National Guard response? Blanco’s team feared it was a way for Bush to step in and appear the hero after public outrage at the botched hurricane response.

Nope, not quite.  Moreover, Bush first touched down in Mississippi, not New Orleans to view Katrina damage.  This was where the cameras were.  Had he landed in New Orleans proper, though I grant you, he and his entourage might have met a very different reception.

But more to the point, there was no reason for Governor Blanco to give up control. And experts she consulted told her she shouldn’t, especially considering that the main point of federal intervention — getting other states to commit their guard detachments — wasn’t an issue, since many were already sending them, some without approval…

Plus there were legal issues involved regarding federally-controlled troops becoming the New Orleans police in the vacuum of order “which the White House, instead of acknowledging, tried to get the Department of Justice to find ways to get around.”  Here we go: more evidence to show that Bush tries to circumvent the rules of law that have predominated the Republic for generations.

So Blanco balked at the immense pressure and held her ground against Bush, but she was caught between a rock and a hard place, crushed between her responsibility and her need to appear in control of a rapidly changing situation, and Bush/Rove’s calculated inaction.  True, she and her staff were also playing the PR-and-cover-your-ass game.  But she kept asking–nay begging–for a Federal response that was increasingly being stonewalled or ignored, despite standing agreements by previous administrations that such aid would be forthcoming.  Worse, she also knew that time was ticking away for thousands of Louisiana citizens.

Let’s repeat that: they ended up using the proposal for troop deployment that Louisiana officials had conceded to four days earlier, delayed largely by the White House’s insistence on a takeover of the operation.

Were these guys merely control freaks or did they want something else other than a PR victory for the administration?  I’m not convinced that mere control was at the root of this footdragging.  Conspiracy theorists, you know the drill.

After Blanco’s appearance, the same House committee subpoenaed Rumsfeld’s Katrina records for examination by December 30. Of course, this isn’t over yet.

Want to watch the hearings?  If you’re at home on holiday vacation, there’s plenty to choose from.

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