Saturday, December 03, 2005

Blanco's office scrambled to spin Katrina.

Nation: Not that they needed to do much, the media did a helluva a job helping them.

BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Bush administration were locked in a pitched political battle to shape public opinion about the response to Hurricane Katrina at the same time they were trying to manage the rescue operation, documents released late Friday by the governor's office show. 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.
Remember, the initial response with a hurricane is that before the storm hits and 48-72 hours after, the local and state entities to take the lead. Nagin and Blanco failed to do so.
"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. "We are not bashing Nagin publicly (though we felt like it), as he had a right to ask the Governor and the President to deliver the resources," Kopplin wrote back. "How should he know who wasn't bringing the resources to bear, as he was in a bunker." In the same e-mail, Kopplin worried that Nagin's remarks unwittingly played into a White House strategy. "Of course, Nagin had know (sic) idea that his comments would play into the White House strategy of blaming us, which they opened the door for, but he didn't have to say it the way he did as it was still insulting to the Governor whether he meant it that way or not."
AP's Connie Mabin must have seen different emails to write this.
"For the state's part, Blanco's chief of staff Andy Kopplin e-mailed employees Sept. 4 saying they needed to get national supporters to say "that the federal response was anemic" and asked them to point out budget cuts to levee programs."
But NOLA reported they said "national surrogates" which has a more negative implication about it. But it looks like the AP is not following its News Values and Principles again.
"That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.

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