Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Tale of Two States

Blanco and Barbour, the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, respectively, are being compared and analyzed in USA Today (via Atrios). Atrios points out this upsetting pair of quotes in the article:

She says that two days after Katrina, desperate for help, she couldn't get through to Bush and didn't get a callback; hours later, she tried again, and they talked.
Barbour hasn't had to wait hours to talk to Bush. In fact, Barbour said in an interview with USA TODAY, the president called him three to four times in the wake of Katrina. "I never called him. He always called me," he said.

Which makes me worried that this government might see its responsibility (the one Bush has now freely accepted) as limited to only those who voted Republican.

The article is fascinating in other ways, as well. The whole tone of the story is really a comparison of the stereotypes of a "traditional woman" and a "traditional man" in a leadership role. We are told that Governor Blanco had many children, stayed at home for several years, cares for her people and takes a nurturing approach. She sounds like the mold from which good wingnut women are supposed to spring. Governor Barbour, on the other hand, comes across as tough as rock, ready to grab bullhorns and eager to shake lots of hands, all the time denying that anything at all has gone wrong. The reader is supposed to draw the obvious conclusions about what works.

It's unfortunate that Blanco would then come across as punished for being the "good woman" and that Barbour would appear to win this game without actually having been a very good governor for his state. So confusing. What is a reader to do?

Well, a good idea would be to read sources which offer somewhat less stereotyped and superficial reports; sources, where one doesn't have to dig and wonder about what was really said. If one is careful with this USA Today story it actually tells that Blanco most likely did a fairly good job and that we don't yet know what sort of a job Barbour did. But the story itself ends with predictions of a presidential ticket for Barbour...