In this report from USA Today, it is clear that there was a significant difference between George Bush's response to Kathleen Blanco, Governor of Louisiana, and his response to Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi.
The fact that Barbour is an old pal of Shrub's played an enormous role in Bush's response, not to mention the fact that Barbour was Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a Republican White House political advisor, and a Republican corporate lobbyist.
Why did Bush called Barbour several times before he even answered a call from Blanco?
One of the criticisms of Blanco has been that she did not "specifically" request 30,000 federal troops, or 50,000 federal troops, or whatever it was she was supposed to have said to Bush to trigger his positive response. Apparently, when she said, "We need everything you have", that was not enough. Apparently, she did not know the right password, or the secret codeword. Declaring an official State of Emergency, three days before the hurricane hit, was not enough. The Republicans have been able to say -- "oh, oh, she didn't say the right word." Can you imagine Bush playing that kind of game with Barbour had Barbour said "send me everything you got, George"? In fact, what did Barbour actually say to Bush and what did Bush actually say to Barbour when he called him? Is there a record of that?
Barbour delivers for Bush -- votes, money, and favors.
Blanco is a Democratic Governor who opposed Bush twice, and whose legislative efforts in Louisiana (although mostly unsuccessful) have been anathema to the Bush political dogma.
Could it be that the perception that Barbour has reacted more forcefully, more quickly, and more heroically has something to do with his insider status?
Isn't there something basically un-American about a President reacting to a national catastrophe of this scale on the basis of political favoritism?
None of this addresses two other questions which loom large in my mind: 1. how has the fact that Blanco is a woman affected Bush's response; and 2) how has race played out as a factor in Bush's slow response to the victims in New Orleans? From a purely political point of view, the last thing White House Republicans would want would be a Blanco or Nagin viewed as a Democratic Giuiliani. Let's not forget that the first photos of Bush during his first visit to the Gulf region were with the two white Republican governors of Mississippi and Alabama.
It is not surprising that Bush's response to Barbour's insider status, imbued with good-old-boy, white, corporate country-club values, goes a long way in explaining why Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and the people of New Orleans got short shrift.
Tip of the hat to Lakshmi Chaudry via Atrios.