Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tough talk

The Governor has just completed her address to the joint legislative session. Some immediate reactions: Taking a page from the president’s handbook, Gov. Blanco acknowledged failures at every level of government, promising that the buck stops with her, thus taking responsibility for state-level failures. This is tough talk from the governor whose original reaction to the crisis was considerably less so. Note, however, the difficulty accompanying the governor’s transposing of the president’s approach onto Louisiana politics: The president has already purged the individual most easily identified as responsible for federal level failures. The problem for Governor Blanco is that if the public calls for similar retribution at the state level, it may be her head on the chopping block. In her speech, the governor insisted that every nickel of relief and rebuilding monies “will be properly spent” and will be monitored by outside talent with impeccable credentials. Isn’t it sad that such a statement was necessary at all? It says better than anything else that the administration’s tired talking points about “a new day in Louisiana” over the last two years haven’t much impacted the reality on the ground. Governor Blanco’s forceful statements about rebuilding the state’s education and health care systems are most welcome. But there is a sense of déjà vu accompanying the litany of newly-discovered priorities. The governor’s post-Katrina priorities sound a great deal like candidate Blanco’s priorities during the gubernatorial campaign two years ago. And, it’s worth noting, there was little evidence of those priorities in the last legislative session. So now, we can only hope that this time the talk will bring with it better and more tangible results. All residents of Louisiana want to see the state resurrected as a better and stronger version of what it was before Katrina. There can be no doubt about that. Unfortunately, however, for all its power, the hurricane couldn’t wash away Louisiana’s political realities. Indeed, much of the talk from state and local authorities since Katrina simply looks more like new wine poured into old wineskins. If Hurricane Katrina proves to be the end of politics-as-usual in Louisiana, I’ll be the first to stand up and cheer. For now, however, I’m reserving judgment.