Comparing Cumquats and Canteloupes

BOSTON--Today's NYT runs a news analysis about the Bush Administration's not-so-discreet efforts to make the nation forget "Brownie, you're doin a heckuva job" and all the other damning details--the staff had to make him watch a DVD of the coverage--that made "Katrina" a synonym for government fecklessness.

The President made a statement widely believed to be aimed at pushing blame on Louisiana's lame-duck Governor Blanco, and the Times analysis quotes Louisianans pushing back on that front. And writer Sheryl Gay Stolberg does an admirable job comparing the magnitudes of the two disasters, by which measures the New Orleans event dwarfed that in SoCal.

But Stolberg, like so many other national journalists, fails to make the crucial point: the New Orleans event is a stain on the Feds not just because of the response, but the event itself was caused by federal mal- and mis-feasance, i.e., the four-decade-long Corps of Engineers "hurricane protection project" wracked with design and construction flaws that proved catastrophic.

Unless one of the SoCal arsonists is proved to be a DHS employee, the federal involvement in the causation of Louisiana's woes is the primary distinction between the two disasters.