As we all sadly know by now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina there is plenty of blame to go aroundat the local, state, and federal levels.
The mayor of New Orleans was sadly out of his depth when it came to handling a disaster of this size. So, too, it turns out, was Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. As for the fedsthe folks who are supposed to be ready for huge disasters in this 9/11 worldthey were just as bad. And the buck stops at the White House, in the Oval Office.
Granted, it's hard, when you're the president, to get unvarnished advice and real opinionsparticularly when they may differ from yours. People like to ingratiate themselves with the president; that's been going on for as long as there have been presidents. And no one likes to be the guy to deliver the bad news to the boss.
In a White House, we call that "the bubble"the rare environment in which a president lives. He doesn't have to watch TV (and usually prefers not to) or read a newspaper. His briefings are his lifeline to the outside world. And if those briefings are well, incomplete, he doesn't know it.
Maybe this administration has taken kissing-up to a whole different level. It's hard to know. What we do knowaccording to a new House report to be issued by House Republicansis that every power center had its own bubble.
Michael Chertoff, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, was slow to respond, according to this report. The House report says he should have set up a special task force to handle the disaster two days before the hurricane actually hit because everyone knew that it was coming and that the levees could be breached. So what did he know, and when did he know it?
As it turns out, he was in his own bubble because the deputy homeland security adviser to President Bush didn't immediately act on a report of impending disaster. And Michael Brown, aka Brownie, was busy making phone calls to top folks in the White House, who were busy shielding the president from the gloom and doom.
Sad to say, that effort to protect the president actually exposed himto well-deserved criticism that his White House, along with the efforts of his disaster management teams, was asleep at the switch. In fact, there was one news report this fall that some within the PR department at the White House were so worried about the images they were seeing on TV that they put together a DVD for the president to watch. We assume the president is seeing everythingor at least some of the thingsthat the American public is watching. Not so. Not when you live in the bubble. And no one, except the American public, expects you to climb out.