The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and Washington Postlead with Congress approving President Bush's request for $51.8 billion in hurricane aid, which the White House said Wednesday should last "a few weeks." The New York Times' lead focuses on the spiraling costs—federal Katrina spending is expected to be about $500 million a day for a good while—and fiscally conservative Republicans are beginning to fret. The Los Angeles Times' catch-all emphasizes the president's promise to those displaced by Katrina that the government will "be there with you for the long haul." USA Today's lead says that while officials are talking a lot about forced evacuations, they're still holding off on going ahead with it. As the NYT puts it, there was "no official word" on when (if?) evictions will begin. That might be news to anybody who read yesterday's near-banner Times headline: "FORCED EVACUATION OF A BATTERED NEW ORLEANS BEGINS."
"We have all the earmarks of a rush to spend money that is very dangerous," said Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions. The only no votes on the aid package came from a handful of House Republicans. Some legislators in both parties said they're bothered by the lack of oversight on the spending. The money will be administered by, yes, FEMA. The Journal and NYT both note that corporate lobbying to slice up the package has begun big time. (Before you get too huffy, the examples cited by the more detailed Journal story seem to be nearly all from industries genuinely hobbled by the storm.)
In its piece headlined "BUSH PLEDGES AID FOR THE 'LONG HAUL,' " the LAT mentions way down that the aid bill allows federal contractors in the gulf to skip a law requiring them to pay workers at least the prevailing wage. In New Orleans, the prevailing wage is reportedly $9 an hour.
Just about everybody mentions that Democrats rejected the Republicans' proposed "bipartisan" but GOP-controlled congressional investigation of the Katrina response. And just about everybody boots the coverage. "PARTISAN RANCOR ACCOMPANIES PASSAGE OF DISASTER AID BILL," announces the Post. The Journal's particularly vapid effort details "jockeying," "finger-pointing," and "assigning blame." It's like the Odd Couple, where conflict itself takes center-stage and the little issues behind it come a distant second. (In this case the little issue is whether there will be a rigorous independent investigation like the 9/11 panel, which Democrats want and Republicans don't.)
After percolating for days on blogs, TP, and some regional papers, the WP (off-lead) and LAT (inside) finally focus on the fact that most top FEMA officials had no real emergency-management experience; the top three were connected to the president's 2000 campaign. Meanwhile, managers with experience have been jumping ship. Nine of FEMA's 10 regional directors are currently working in acting capacities.
A Time magazine piece posted last night finds evidence that FEMA chief (as of 5 a.m.) Mike Brown serially fibbed on his résumé (or, perhaps, had it massaged by others). There is, for instance, a reference to a college professorship of which there's no record. And then there was the time he was an "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." One city official clarified that the job Brown had was not as a manager but "more like an intern." The New Republic adds that Brown got his law degree from an unaccredited university.
For the record, Brown's confirmation hearing was apparently a grueling 42 minutes long.
Slate's John Dickerson reminds us that Brown didn't have the power to be primarily responsible for the government's lax response. Brown hasn't been canned yet because he's playing a vital role, that of "chief punching bag." Meanwhile, the NYT can't be thrilled with the thin profile it had on Brown Wednesday.
The NYT goes above-the-fold with a curious piece saying White House "senior advisors" tossed around the idea of federalizing the rescue effort last week—and sending in 40,000 active duty troops—but decided against it because they didn't want to be heavy-handed and figured Louisiana's governor would oppose it. The Times, of course, doesn't name the sources who offered that narrative, instead citing "administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials." One "senior administration official" said, "Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had preemptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces?" Now, why would that official not want to be named? (In fairness, just because the explanation is self-serving doesn't mean it's untrue.)
The Journal has a similar story. But it's better on the timeline, saying the governor was offered and rejected a possible takeover by the feds Friday night, after aid started rolling in.
A fascinating WSJ piece looks at how New Orleans city government was knocked out of contact for days after the storm. They only had a few old satellite telephones, which quickly ran out of power. So, they "looted" an Office Depot and figured out a way to set up, yes, Internet phones. (Vonage, if you must know.)
A piece inside the LAT mentions that in the 1970s the feds began work on a massive hurricane flood wall to protect New Orleans but dropped it after a judge ruled that the government hadn't done a proper environmental assessment.
She's got a bead on them ... From the NYT:"In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found an unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic."