--> Gill Blog: The Political Storm After Katrina Begins

Gill Blog

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Political Storm After Katrina Begins

It was about this time last Monday Katrina made landfall and caused unimaginable horror. A week after the world has had time to digest the storm's aftermath a fierce political storm in brewing in Washington and Baton Rouge. Today's New York Times reports that the administration has already put together a strategy that might minimize political damage:
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.

It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.

While the partisan blame game erupts, another tempest in a teapot is becoming clear - the role of FEMA not only in the context of this tragedy, but also in terms of its overall effectiveness. From today's Globe and Mail:
But the central villain of the piece, in the judgment of almost everybody here, is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which heads up the disaster response.

FEMA was created in 1979 by former president Jimmy Carter, but in 2003 it was folded into the new Department of Homeland Security.

Since then, FEMA's many critics say, the overriding federal emphasis on countering terrorism has seen the organization's bureaucracy mushroom, while weakening its ties to state emergency programs and slashing its spending on disaster preparation.

Hey, wait a second, FEMA...Homeland Security...that passage has a familiar ring to it. I know I've heard it somewhere before. Oh yes, now I remember, it was from a piece we did on gillblog last summer after Hurricane Charley. Click here if you'd like to give it a read - it seems particularly relevant in light of the political storm quickly gathering on the horizon.