Frank Luntz, a partisan Republican pollster, just misled listeners of BBC radio.
He said the governor of Mississippi did a better job before the hurricane struck of evacuating residents than the governor of Louisiana, and since Mississippi has a higher black population than Louisiana, this proves race had nothing to do with the death toll of the hurricane.
I'm sure Frank Luntz knows more about demographics than that.
Poor people in rural areas like Mississippi's gulf coast usually have cars, and are able to drive to shelters or relatives' homes in another part of the state.
Poor people in urban areas like New Orleans rely on public transportation. Thousands of tourists also were stranded, especially when some airlines refused to fly despite weather conditions that were not adverse until Sunday night. (The same airlines the federal government bails out when they're in trouble.)
Officials in Louisiana, knowing this, opened the huge Superdome as a refuge, expecting the cavalry to arrive immediately after the hurricane passed to help the residents stranded there. In past events the federal government's disaster agency, FEMA, has always appeared, as have the Red Cross, to restore order and assist overloaded local officials.
But this time the cavalry did not come.
Now Frank Luntz and other apologists for this administration want to pit one governor against another, turn this into a "Republicans can do no wrong" while "Democrats can't lead" mudwrestle.
Mississippi's governor Haley Barbour, whose previous job as chairman of the Republican National Committee—and its chief fundraiser—makes him ideally suited to raise money now for the victims of the hurricane, did nothing extraordinary to remove people in the path of the hurricane. Nor did the governor of Louisiana, although she did ask the president to declare "an expedited major disaster" on August 28 which should have ensured a prompt response afterward. (Go here and click to read the letter requesting aid.)
Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated safely out of New Orleans, no small task, especially considering the many false alarms that may have led to complacency. Just last year a hundred thousand residents left New Orleans when Ivan was aiming for its heart, and returned when he turned and struck Alabama instead.
Luntz's statements on race are even more ridiculous. Two thirds of the population of New Orleans is black and overwhelmingly poor. He knows very well that poverty in America is unequally distributed to its people of color, and when disaster strikes, poor people have far fewer resources to cope than do those with an income well above the poverty line.
Which is why the dismantlement of FEMA in recent years smacks of racism.
State and local officials obviously share some blame in the disastrous response, most obviously for failing to foresee the failure of the plumbing at the Superdome, and for failing to recognize the unpreparedness of the federal government, but playing one governor against another for partisan political purposes is ugly.
Don't be caught in the residual spin of Hurricane Katrina. She wasn't a Republican or a Democrat, and neither are the people she's made homeless, motherless, and childless.