Louisiana Democrats can lambaste Bush and the federal government's response to hurricane Katrina all they want without objection from the Times. But let Republican Gov. Haley Barbour dare praise the federal response, and it "raises eyebrows." That's according to a Tuesday story from reporter Michael Cooper, "Bush Has Staunch Defender Amid Critics on Gulf Coast." The text box reads: "Praise for the federal response from a rising G.O.P. star raises eyebrows in his state."
"Mr. Barbour's praise of the federal efforts has put him at odds with some other Mississippi officials who have bemoaned the slow response in their areas and has put him at risk of sounding like a Pollyanna to Mississippians still struggling in the storm's aftermath. But the strategy is unsurprising for a canny political strategist like Mr. Barbour -- a former political director in the Reagan White House, chairman of the Republican Party, and powerful Washington lobbyist -- who won the governorship two years ago by in part emphasizing the strength of his close ties to President Bush."
Cooper makes Barbour explain himself, an effort the Times has yet to demand from Democrats in Louisiana who have lambasted the federal government and Bush, perhaps for political cover: "Mr. Barbour said his praise of the federal government was not a political calculation. 'I get all these questions all the time about, you know, there's not enough water in X or there's not enough ice in Y, and almost always there is something to that,' Mr. Barbour said at a news conference here on Monday. 'But that's why you've just got to manage this deal and keep trying to wrestle this bear down to the ground, and that's what we're doing.'"
See TimesWatch for more on the Barbour story and other anti-Bush bias on Hurricane Katrina.