Kevin Drum points out Time magazine’s account of Gov. Blanco’s struggle to get help from the President:
The day the storm hit, she asked President Bush for “everything you’ve got.” But almost nothing arrived, and she couldn’t wait any longer. So she called the White House and demanded to speak to the President. George Bush could not be located, two Louisiana officials told Time, so she asked for chief of staff Andrew Card, who was also unavailable. Finally, after being passed to another office or two, she left a message with DHS adviser Frances Frago Townsend. She waited hours but had to make another call herself before she finally got Bush on the line. “Help is on the way,” he told her.
Communications failures were clearly an early and persistent problem, and any reforms have to deal with that. When a governor calls to ask for assistance, that’s not the time to be negotiating over which troops to send. Those decisions need to be part of existing plans, and a governor should be able to simply request federal aid, and those existing plans execute. The fact that she had to be playing phone tag at the key period can’t have helped anything.
The precise timeline of all this is difficult to determine, but is this what was going on when Blanco called?