Yesterday I posted a short mention of a recently published account of how President Bush went about firing Karl Rove, choosing to break the news to Rove while in church so Rove wouldn't lose his temper. The account was published in a book titled "Machiavelli's Shadow" - written by former Time magazine reporter Paul Alexander.
One aspect of Alexander's book is causing quite a stir. Alexander writes that Rove played politics during the initial stages of the Katrina disaster, while Americans literally were dying.
Salon has more, in a piece called "How Karl Rove played politics while people drowned". Included is an excerpt from Alexander's book.
On Monday, August 29, 2005, at about 6:00 a.m., Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. A category 5 hurricane until just before landfall, it was one of the worst storms ever to hit the Gulf Coast. Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, had been briefed extensively about what to expect when the storm hit, which was why, on the Friday night before the storm reached the coast, she signed papers declaring Louisiana to be in a state of emergency. Based on what she had been told by her advisers and what she knew from being a native Louisianan, she understood that Katrina, creeping gradually toward land with sustained winds of a strength rarely seen in a hurricane, could prove to be catastrophic for Louisiana, and particularly for New Orleans.
Over the weekend, Blanco and her staff monitored the storm from an emergency headquarters in Baton Rouge. As the storm was hitting on Monday morning, Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, met with the governor and her staff. Brown had arrived in Louisiana the night before, supposedly ready to deal with the disaster. When he got to the headquarters that morning, Brown told Blanco he was prepared to help. "He showed up Monday morning," says Bob Mann, a senior aide to Blanco, "and gave us the feeling we would have everything we wanted and needed. He was nothing if not an effective bullshitter." Specifically, there was talk of FEMA buses. "Michael Brown told me he had 500 buses," Blanco says. "They were staged and ready to roll in."
Meanwhile, as a deadly storm of historic proportions ripped into three Gulf Coast states that Monday, Bush, on a working vacation at his ranch in Crawford, stuck to his schedule for the day. He traveled to Arizona, where he gave a stay-the-course speech about the war in Iraq. He even made himself available for a photo op after the speech, posing with a guitar next to someone wearing a sombrero, seemingly unaware that the Gulf Coast of the United States was in the throes of a horrific natural disaster perhaps unparalleled in the nation's history. For a president who often seemed to care more about developments in Iraq than those at home, here was a singular moment. Never had Bush appeared to be so out of sync, at least when it came to events unfolding in the homeland. To make matters worse, in this case the disaster was not happening on the other side of the world or even the other side of the country, but in a state next door to Texas.
More after the jump --
Instead of supplying relief to the city, Rove had devised a scheme whereby he could blame the failure of government to take action on someone besides Bush. "They looked around," Landrieu says, "and they found a Democratic governor and an African American Democratic mayor who had never held office before in his life before he was mayor of New Orleans -- someone they knew they could manipulate. Ray Nagin had never held public office and here he was the mayor of New Orleans and it was going underwater."
In short, Rove was going to blame Blanco for the failure of the response in Louisiana, and to do that he was going to use Nagin. He had already set the plan in motion on Tuesday with Nagin, who, even though he was a Democrat, was so close to the Republican Party that some members of the African American community in New Orleans called him "Ray Reagan." In 2000, Nagin had actually contributed $2,000 to Bush's campaign when he ran for president.
Rove knew of Nagin's ties to the Republican Party, so more than likely Nagin could be convinced to level his criticism at Blanco and to support Bush when he could. Here was Rove's strategy: Praise Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi; praise Michael Brown and FEMA; blame Blanco, the Democrat. It was not a stretch for Nagin. He and Blanco so disliked each other that in Blanco's last race Nagin had endorsed her opponent. [...]
Blanco sought out Michael Chertoff. She found him in one of the emergency headquarters trailers. "Turn off the talking heads," she told him point-blank. "People are dying while you people are playing politics. Turn them off." It was Thursday, and so far the FEMA buses had still not arrived to help evacuate people from the Convention Center and Superdome, nor had Bush sent any federal troops, who were desperately needed in the search-and-rescue efforts. Instead of sending help, the administration had come up with a ploy. "I was on a conference call with the White House," Adam Sharp says, "where they were saying: If you want any help, you have to turn over all control of your state to the president. We won't help until you give us control of your National Guard and your law enforcement agencies, until Louisiana becomes a federal territory. They were using this as the excuse for their delaying on the issues. They kept trying to put it on Blanco. But no governor would ever give control of her state to the president."
It's a fascinating read, and could put another nail in Rove's political coffin. Members of Congress are putting former White House Press point-person Scott McCellan on the stand next week to specifically ferret out Rove's involvement in the Valerie Plame outing.
Democrats have been talking about criminal prosecution of high officials for years now. The confluence of McClellan and Alexander's books may hasten that process.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!