The gargantuan task of rebuilding New Orleans after hurricane Katrina is an ongoing news story -- but it doesn't have to be presented solely as a liberal narrative, with the Democratic local officials, Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, assigned only the role of heroic pleaders to the racist Republican administration, while left-wing protest groups cheer on Barney Frank's claims that the administration is conducting "ethnic cleansing by inaction."
But that's precisely what Washington Post readers get today on the front page and beyond. Reporter Linton Weeks begins with Gov. Blanco declaring "It's time to play hardball, as I believe it's the only game Washington understands," and readers are told it represents "the fervor and frustration of someone living in Limbo Land." Mayor Nagin is contacting foreign governments for aid. They're doing this "because they say they need more money to rebuild New Orleans. They are trying to appeal to the federal government and also minister to impatient constituents. New Orleanians are angry that President Bush did not devote more of his State of the Union speech to the city and are concerned that Washington's attention is no longer on them. They feel as though they are living in the mean in-between." To Weeks, the story line is a deprived and neglected New Orleans, with no mention that President Bush says $85 billion has been committed to reconstruction.
The left-wing flavor of the Post comes through with the picture at the top of the front page, with a woman wearing a red T-shirt for ACORN (Associations for Community Reform Now), a hard-left group. On page 12, reporter Petula Dvorak publicizes their protest, which sounds like a partisan campaign rally, complete with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi calling the Bush handling of Katrina a "scandal" and the crowd that "thundered" when Democrat Barney Frank called the pace of progress in black neighborhoods "a policy of ethnic cleansing by inaction."
Nowhere in these stories is the word "liberal" or "leftist" used to describe ACORN or its Democratic protest partners. (Nowhere in these stories is any Bush official or Republican quoted in response to this partisan campaign.) The front-page caption says only "Mary Howard of Lake Charles, La. joins about 400 others displaced by Hurricane Katrina in marching to the U.S. Capitol. 'We want to go home' and 'Where's the money?' were the chants of storm victims who will continue their rally and protest in the District today."
How helpful. The Dvorak story does explain there's more events today, and where and when, if readers want to join the protests. The caption on the Dvorak story also leaves out the partisan political nature of the rally, even as the protesters hold ACORN signs in the photo: "Chantel Young, right, whose home was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and Gloria Calhoun, whose home was destroyed, march in support of rebuilding efforts on the Gulf Coast."
Once again, the epic political battles of our time are being fought between the conservatives and the "nonpartisans," and the "nonpartisans" can say any wild thing they want about Bush being an "ethnic cleanser," and it's still Bush who's held accountable for not "maintaining a civil tone" in Washington.