Monday, May 01, 2006

Bay's Just Whistling Past the Graveyard

Sorry if I didn't seem as outraged as some other local bloggers (da po'blog has a more complete rundown) at Bay Buchanan's statements on CNN's Situation Room last week:

Well, there's no question. I believe that Katrina is -- has worn its welcome. I mean, and I think we have heard about it. We have heard about it. The American people have responded. The president suffered. It weakened his poll numbers. And -- but to suggest that somehow this is going to continue to play against him, I think the American people are getting a little tired of it, myself.

I certainly enjoyed some of the posts about Buchanan and objected to every word she said, especially "The president suffered-- it weakened his poll numbers" (how I think that the transcript should read). Poor baby, it weakened his poll numbers. I just can't take that Buchanan seriously enough to get too indignant and I've long since stopped stewing about the fact that CNN gives a national forum to someone with all of Pat Buchanan's vitriol and none of his intelligence or insight.

Buchanan's comments bothered me to the extent that they were part of a Republican effort to spin Katrina as a dead issue, but I expect the media to see through that effort (well, one can always hope). At the very least, I expect the Democrats to counter that spin (hope springs eternal, I guess).

I'd be more upset by Buchanan's comments if it weren't obvious that the Republicans are worried about Katrina (obviously, they're more worried about other issues). At least, that's the only explanation that I can come up with for the White House's interest in a mayor's race between two Democrats.

I suppose it's possible that it's a pure coincidence that Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson's potentially inflammatory comments about public housing came in an interview on the first weekday of the runoff election. I suppose it's also possible that he didn't realize that it would fire up black evacuees (part of Nagin's new base) when he said:

"Some of the people shouldn't return, the (public housing) developments were gang-ridden by some of the most notorious gangs in this country. People hid and took care of those persons because they took care of them. Only the best residents should return. Those who paid rent on time, those who held a job and those who worked."

But he seemed to take pains to ensure that his comments would get noticed:

Mr. Jackson, a conservative black Republican, predicted that his stance would draw fire from people such as Jesse Jackson and former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, whom he derides as the "so-called black leadership

Of course, that might just be an attempt to cast reconstruction issues in racial terms, in order to keep conservatives fired up. However, later in the same week, the president all but endorsed Nagin. That's not just my analyis, Republican analyst Jeff Crouere reached the same conclusion. So in the same week, we had a cabinet member make statements that could reasonably be assumed would help increase black turnout and the president try to help Nagin with conservative white voters. I'm sure that it was just a coincidence.

What would be the motivation? If Katrina is going to add the GOP's troubles this fall, Alphonso Jackson's statements could be explained by a desire to see Jesse Jackson or Kweisi Mfume leading a protest of New Orleans public housing residents. But why would Bush care which Democrat wins the New Orleans' mayoral election? I don't think it's too far fetched to think that Bush would want to be able to quote a New Orleans mayor who's quick to blame the city's problems on Baton Rouge rather than Washington.

At a more abstract level, a Nagin re-election would probably be used to stoke white fears about black bloc voting. People susceptible to such manipulation would, of course, overlook white bloc voting or the efforts of white conservatives to sink Landrieu's candidacy. I suppose that it's possible that those anti-Landrieu emails are coming from liberals, but I doubt it.

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