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Partisan Squabble or Dereliction of Duty?

"But Democratic critics say that, this time, the public's first impression will be the lasting one. . . .

"The president's supporters acknowledge that shifting the political narrative from one in which Bush is cast as aloof or incompetent to one in which a caught-off-guard chief rises to the occasion will work only if conditions on the battered Gulf Coast continue to improve."

Too Many Chefs?

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "There are an awful lot of chiefs around the White House these days when it comes to Hurricane Katrina."

She offers up quite a list. There's Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Vice President Cheney -- all of whom have leadership roles -- not to mention Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, nine working groups, and much more.

"[T]he large cast of sometimes-changing aides being thrown at the response is contributing to a perception that the president has not taken complete control of the situation himself, said Paul Light, a professor of organizational studies at New York University. . . .

"White House spokesman Scott McClellan said there is no need for confusion about who is running things.

" 'This is a massive catastrophe and it requires a massive response with all hands on deck,' he said. 'There are clear lines of authority and responsibility. . . . Ultimately the president is in charge.' "

FEMA and the Dead

The unforgettable televised images of suffering Americans left to fend for themselves were a shock to our sense of self. And the bringing out of the dead will be a continuing reminder of our shame. Assuming the public will be allowed to see it.

One way to cut down on the searing images of government failure, of course, is for the government to ban them.

Deborah Zabarenko writes for Reuters: "When U.S. officials asked the media not to take pictures of those killed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, they were censoring a key part of the disaster story, free speech watchdogs said on Wednesday.

"The move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in line with the Bush administration's ban on images of flag-draped U.S. military coffins returning from the Iraq war, media monitors said in separate telephone interviews.

" 'It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story,' said Larry Siems of the PEN American Center, an authors' group that defends free expression. . . .

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