Karl Rove's Big Easy

Creating an independent, bipartisan commission to look into what went so horribly wrong with the response to Katrina is not only an idea supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people -- including 64% of Republicans -- it's also, unarguably, the right thing to do.

After all, we're not talking about a witch hunt to ferret out which public officials should be pilloried in the public square (although surely more than a few members of the administration deserve a good thrashing -- uh, I mean Medal of Freedom) but a chance to make sure that the same mistakes aren't made when the dreaded next terrorist attack hits us. If we look at Katrina as a very wet dry run for our response to Hurricane Osama, an independent commission should have been empanelled the second the bodies started piling up in New Orleans.

And it's not like this kind of fast-track fact-gathering is without precedent. The first of nine investigations into the failures that led to Pearl Harbor convened 11 days after that attack. And LBJ created the Warren Commission seven days after President Kennedy was assassinated.

But a full, public, and unbiased accounting is the last thing the White House and its Congressional allies want. Hence Wednesday's straight party-line vote. Not surprisingly, the GOP prefers the fox guarding the henhouse approach of having a Republican-controlled Congressional panel investigate Katrina.

Of course, we've seen this foot-dragging, stonewalling, anything-to-avoid-looking-in-the-mirror tactic before. It took 14 months -- and a candlelight vigil outside the White House by the 9/11 families -- before Bush finally relented and the 9/11 Commission was created. Is that kind of public shaming what it's going to take to get to the truth about Katrina? If so, let's not wait 14 months to have the families of Katrina's victims gather outside the White House demanding answers.

There is too much at stake to let Bush and the GOP Congress play politics with our lives.

And speaking of playing politics, I love how the news that Karl Rove has been placed in charge of the reconstruction effort was buried in the ninth paragraph of a twelve-paragraph New York Times story on Bush's big speech.

This assignment proves that despite the president's lofty rhetoric about "building a better New Orleans," his main concern is stanching his political bleeding. Let's be honest, when it comes to large-scale efforts like this, Ol' Turd Blossom isn't exactly Gen. George Marshall, who, before devising the Marshall Plan, had, among other things, been responsible for deploying over eight million soldiers in WW II.

Rove's genius (aside from a Mensa-level mastery of dirty trickery) is for using imagery, spin, and atmospherics to turn political liabilities into political opportunities.

So here is the White House's Katrina Plan in a nutshell: block any independent examination of its failings, put the Einstein of damage control in charge of reconstructing New Orleans, keep the dead bodies out of sight, try to get away with general platitudes and palliatives, offer watered-down acceptances of "responsibility" while trying to pin everything you can on local yokels and fall guys like Brownie, and let Bush's corporate cronies get fat on hefty no-bid reconstruction contracts.

So get ready for the New New Orleans -- Karl Rove's Big Easy -- featuring the Halliburton French Quarter, the ExxonMobil River (formerly the Mississippi), Lake MBNA (formerly Pontchartrain), and Eli Lilly music (formerly jazz).

With deals like that shimmering on the horizon, it's no wonder the president's pals in Congress are doing everything they can to throw a monkey wrench into House Democrats' efforts to investigate the Plamegate scandal, and the Boy Genius' involvement in it -- shooting down a pair of bills that would have required Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department, and Condi Rice and the State Department to turn over all documents and information pertaining to the outing of Valerie Plame.

God forbid! Mustn't allow anything to get in the way of Reconstruction Karl's efforts to rebuild the president's poll numbers, eh?