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Karl Rove wanted Blanco to federalize the New Orleans evacuation

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, Aug 31, Karl Rove used Senator David Vitter to convey a message to governor Kathleen Blanco: she should announce that she's voluntarily turned control of the evacuation of New Orleans over to the feds, and she should:

explore legal options to impose martial law "or as close as we can get," Vitter quoted Rove as saying, according to handwritten notes by Terry Ryder, Blanco's executive counsel.

For the next three days, the White House tried to get Blanco to do what they wanted, except:

Blanco rejected the administration's terms, 10 minutes before Bush was to announce them in a Rose Garden news conference, the governor's aides said.

As others speculated at the time, Blanco had no clue on how to deal with the legalities of this:

Blanco's top aides relied on ad hoc tutorials from the National Guard about who would be in charge and how to call in federal help. But in the inevitable confusion of fast-moving events, partisan differences and federal/state divisions prevented top leaders from cooperating.
A Blanco aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the people around Bush were trying to maneuver the governor into an unnecessary change intended to make Bush look decisive.
"It was an overwhelming natural disaster. The federal government has an agency that exists for purposes of coming to the rescue of localities in a natural disaster, and that organization did not live up to what it was designed for or promised to," the aide said. Referring to Bush aides, he said, "It was time to recover from the fiasco, and take a win wherever you could, legitimate or not."
Vitter, in an interview, disagreed but acknowledged the clash.
"In my opinion, they [Blanco aides] were hypersensitive. . . . They seemed to feel there was some power play, which I don't think there was," he said. "The fact that it was [Rove] -- might that have fueled the governor's hypersensitivity? It may have, I don't know."

More in "Documents Highlight Bush-Blanco Standoff".

Levee breach, flooding timeline: who knew what when?

Monday 8/29, early morning: hurricane strikes
Monday 8/29, later that morning: Fox might have broadcast news of the break(s)
Monday 8/29, early afternoon: breaches reported to NO authorities [1]
Monday 8/29, 6pm : confirmed in a summary distributed by the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness [1]
Monday 8/29, "later in the day" : Blanco finds out [1]
Tuesday 8/30, midnight to 1am: CNN broadcasts a live report on the breach(s) [2]
Tuesday 8/30, late morning: DHS head Michael Chertoff finds out about the issue [1]
[2]: two blog reports: here and here
[1]: "News of levee breach hit D.C. late":

Federal and state emergency officials knew by early evening on the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall that New Orleans' levees had ruptured and that much of the city was inundated with water, documents turned over to congressional investigators by Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration show.
But that critical information did not make it up the chain of command to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until more than 15 hours later, a delay that some Louisiana officials believe compromised the effort to rescue people stranded by floodwaters.
The breach of the 17th Street Canal levee, which was reported to New Orleans authorities early on the afternoon of Aug. 29, was confirmed by the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in a 6 p.m. summary distributed to state and federal emergency officials in Baton Rouge.
"No power, 911 system down, EOC (emergency operations center) on emergency power and cell phones," the summary said. "Entire city flooded, except French Quarter/West Bank/Business district."
Farther down, in bold type, the summary report notes three breaches in the New Orleans area, including the 17th Street Canal...
FEMA Director Michael Brown, who was in Baton Rouge that day, would have had access to the summary, as did other state and federal officials.
Mark Smith, a spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said it would have been clear to anyone who had read the summary what was happening in New Orleans. "Her (Blanco's) staff and our staff and the FEMA staff on site . . . all know the implications of any levee in Louisiana going down," Smith said.
But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff did not find out about the flooding until late Tuesday morning. Russ Knocke, a spokesman for Chertoff, said he doesn't know why the information wasn't conveyed sooner.
"I can't speak for Michael Brown. I can't tell you what happened with that information when . . . it was presented to Mike," Knocke said. "I can just tell you that from our part in Washington, D.C. . . . it was an extraordinarily frustrating period because we simply lacked visibility. That was a result of inadequate information from the field."
Knocke declined to speculate on whether the federal response would have been quicker had Chertoff understood the gravity of the situation sooner. "That's like asking someone to go back and play armchair quarterback," he said...

Sen. Mary Landrieu's in-your-face approach

The LAT offers "Image Problem Is Costing Louisiana" about how not too many DC politicians want to go out of their way for LA because of LA's reputation and because of Sen. Mary Landrieu's "in-your-face approach":

After battling in Congress for months to get more federal money for their hurricane-ravaged state, some Louisiana officials have come to believe they are up against something more than concerns about the budget deficit or conflicting visions of reconstruction.
Maybe, they speculate, their colleagues just don't trust them.
Maybe they are right...

When asked about past and current corruption in their state, LA officials play a mean game of tu quoque, bringing up Tom Delay, Bill Frist, and Jack Abramoff. But:

But some lawmakers say the Louisiana delegation has only itself to blame for the mounting tension over the federal government's obligations for rebuilding Louisiana.
They single out Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), who has made angry speeches on the Senate floor and kept the chamber in session overnight in October, holding up other legislation, as she pressed her colleagues for more aid. Some Republicans say her tone, which they describe as "shrill," has alienated her colleagues and undercut her efforts.
Privately, lawmakers unfavorably compare Landrieu's in-your-face approach to that of the senators from the other heavily Katrina-damaged state, Mississippi. Republicans Thad Cochran and Trent Lott have gotten high marks for working quietly behind the scenes to steer resources to their constituents.
Some Louisiana officials, however, contend the key difference between their state and Mississippi is political. Mississippi is a heavily Republican state, and its GOP governor, Haley Barbour, has close ties to the White House. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is a Democrat, and the wrecked city of New Orleans is a Democratic stronghold...

For her part:

Sen. Landrieu said she did not believe that her actions, or those of anyone else in the state's congressional delegation, were to blame for what she saw as the federal government's failure to respond to Louisiana's needs.
"I'm not sure it was ever the intention of this administration to really help," she said. "I would say that really it's a pattern of this administration to promise a lot and deliver very little - to pretend like you care, but when it comes down to really putting your money where your mouth is, it doesn't happen."
Months after the hurricane, many survivors still are living in hotels and other temporary shelters, and many remain financially devastated.
"I'm ready to start a revolution," said former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.). "This is an absolute outrage. Here we are in Month 4 of a terrible, terrible tragedy, and other than hotel rooms and meals-ready-to-eat and some reconstruction, we haven't gotten squat."

And, Louisiana Recovery Authority Vice Chairman Walter Isaacson says LA isn't asking for $250 billion any more. It's now a more miserly $50 billion.

Louisiana releases 100,000 pages of Katrina documents

On Friday Dec 2, LA began the release of 100,000 pages of internal documents on Katrina. These were released to Congress, but so far they are not publicly available on the web. To gain access you must file a public records request with the state, as described here. I've emailed such a request, but since this is not the controllable MSM they might just press delete. Blanco has an overview of the document dump here.
Coverage from:
NYT: "In Newly Released Documents, a View of the Storm After Katrina"
NOLA: "Blanco, Bush bickered over Guard, state says"
WaPo: "Blanco Releases Katrina Records"
AP (also here)
HuffPost comments.

60 Minutes: "New Orleans is Sinking"

On tonight's 60 Minutes, "natural disaster expert" Prof. Tim Kusky of the Earth Sciences Department at St. Louis University will advocate a "gradual pull-out from the city". He says that in 90 years:
"New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, sitting off the coast of North America surrounded by a 50 to 100-foot-tall levee system to protect the city... That's the projection, because we are losing land on the Mississippi Delta at a rate of 25 to 30 square miles per year. That's two acres per hour that are sinking below sea level..."
Kathleen Blanco's office wants CBS to hold off on the report:

Andy Kopplin, Blanco's chief for the governor's main panel dealing with the rebuilding effort, the Louisiana Recovery Authority, wrote CBS producers asking the network to reconsider.
"We are very concerned about the preview of your story on New Orleans' future posted on the '60 Minutes' Web site and hope it is not an accurate reflection of your work," Kopplin's letter said...
"We know of many scientists and engineers who have spent considerable parts of their careers becoming experts in addressing coastal land loss in Louisiana and who disagree fundamentally with Prof. Kusky's purported comments," Kopplin wrote.
The letter says, "I cannot request strongly enough that you delay the airing of your story and immediately get in contact with some of these scientists in order to provide your viewers with scientific objectivity as well as balance in your report."

A battle of the academics ensues:

... Kopplin's letter was attached to a letter from Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, strongly disputing Kusky's conclusions and raising questions about Kusky's credentials.
"Quick research reveals that Prof. Kusky's expertise is in ophiolites, rock sequences that formed on the oceanic edge of tectonic plates, in the Archean eon about 3 billion years ago," Boesch's letter states.
He criticized some of Kusky's writing as being no better than "an undergraduate paper" that he would give a low grade.

Blanco sued over budget cuts; now stands accused of race baiting

But, isn't accusing her of race-baiting in itself race-baiting? I seem to have misplaced my PC guide:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco engaged in the "the lowest form of racial baiting" when she suggested last week that a lawsuit filed against her by the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus was a ploy to protect controversial programs in the state budget, the chairman of the caucus charged in a letter to the governor Friday.
"As legislators, and as citizens of this state, we deserve better," Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, wrote to Blanco. "We deserve more thoughtful commentary from our top officials. We deserve straight answers to straight questions, and above all we deserve due respect to do our jobs."
Richmond's letter escalates a feud that began before the current special legislative session. Several black lawmakers have accused Blanco of ignoring their suggestions for subjects to be debated in the session, and of cutting too deeply into programs for the poor in trying to close a $959 million budget gap.
Their anger culminated in a lawsuit, filed Wednesday by state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, on behalf of the caucus. It charges that Blanco exceeded her constitutional authority with a Nov. 5 executive order that sliced $431 million in state spending.
A hearing on the suit has been set for Nov. 18 in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.
When asked about the lawsuit Thursday, Blanco attributed it to anger over her decision to freeze about $6 million in spending by the Governor's Office of Urban Affairs and Development.
"If I would boil it down to a rational reason, I think that's probably the cause of the problem," Blanco said. Often described by critics as a "slush fund," the program doles out cash for projects and nonprofit groups in the districts of black lawmakers...

Blanco makes Time Magazine's "Top Three Worst Governors" list

When asked about this, she said:

"Watch my results" and then she walked off.


The magazine quotes pollster Bernie Pinsonat who describes Blanco as appearing "dazed and confused" after Hurricane Katrina. Time hits blanco for slowness in calling a special legislative session, and slowness in appointing a recovery commission.
At the bottom with Blanco is Ohio governor Bob Taft and Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Who's the best on the Time magazine list? It cites Arkansas's governor Mike Huckabee, whom the magazine describes as "a consensus building conservative."

Apparently it's "Opposite Day", since vapid and churchy Huckabee - a virulent supporter of massive illegal immigration - would be in my "worst three" list right below Blanco.

Mayor, sheriff, City Council election details troubling

From this:

With most of its residents living in storm-imposed exile across the country, hundreds of polling places destroyed and a scarcity of election workers, New Orleans is an election planner's nightmare.
But in three months, the ghostly city is scheduled to elect a mayor, sheriff and the entire City Council.
State and local election officials say a massive vote-by-mail program could effectively provide access for all voters, regardless of location, but the hurdles are daunting:
* The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to mail election-information packets on behalf of the state of Louisiana to people who have evacuated New Orleans. But FEMA refuses to pay for election public service announcements in areas with high concentrations of city evacuees.
* Current law requires 2,700 election commissioners to staff the polls, but they're scattered.
* Finding polling places to replace those destroyed by flooding will be difficult in a city where electricity and water service is still spotty. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco will decide whether to hold the election as scheduled, based on recommendations from Secretary of State Al Ater. But New Orleans election chief Kimberly Williamson Butler opposes a postponement...

Dueling commissions; will NO get its share of money?

Nagin implores residents to return, rebuild

Gov. Kathleen Blanco's top adviser on rebuilding Louisiana after this year's hurricanes said Monday that Blanco and the commission she appointed to oversee recovery planning "will continue to make sure the state's most important city is front and center in the recovery process."
Andy Kopplin, formerly Blanco's chief of staff and now director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, addressed a meeting of Mayor Ray Nagin's parallel recovery agency, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission.
Kopplin said the state authority has no more important task than helping to bring back "one of the great cities of the world" and promised that the state's infrastructure will be rebuilt "from east to west," placing New Orleans in prime position for early reconstruction work.
But when developer Joseph Canizaro, a member of Nagin's commission, asked whether Blanco would be willing to give the city one-third of the $150 million she hopes to tap this year from the state's rainy-day fund, Kopplin said the administration would be willing to discuss the issue but suggested that chances of winning approval by two-thirds of each legislative house are questionable when the state faces a huge budget deficit...

"Blanco budget plan leaves legislators cold"

From this:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco's plan to trim more than $500 million from the state budget through cuts and spending freezes got a chilly reception Monday from legislators, some of whom questioned whether certain programs were being unfairly targeted.
But Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc said more cuts might be forthcoming as legislators try to close a $959 million deficit in the state general fund caused by a slowdown in tax collections since hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The cuts could end up going much deeper, as the official deficit projections don't include money that state agencies generate on their own through fees and penalties.
"The $960 (million) is just a beginning," LeBlanc told the House Appropriations Committee, which is reviewing the governor's budget recommendations. "We have a long way to go..."


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