The WashPost predictably plays up Sen. Mary Landrieu’s emotional floor speech in the Senate yesterday. You could call this story a “stature builder,” an attempt to create a more imposing political figure out of the flood mud of Katrina. Writer Mark Leibovich even tips his hat to the mood in the air. “I think the last week has definitely changed her,” Landrieu’s press secretary Brian Richardson said after the speech. “This is probably the most important point in her career.” He then self-consciously changed it to “most important issue.” But Landrieu could be in trouble, facing re-election next year with a depopulated New Orleans, six years after she didn’t build enough of a victory to avoid a runoff election.
Then, at the end of the story, Leibovich gets to Landrieu, “at once gracious and defiant,” mocking President Bush’s intelligence for his statement that no one anticipated the breach of the levees. “Everybody anticipated the breach of the levee, Mr. President,” Landrieu said. Leibovich reports: “This included the clay figurine, Mr. Bill, from ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Landrieu is a friend of Walter Williams, a native of New Orleans and Mr. Bill’s creator, and he had deployed the high-voiced and squishable icon in public service announcements about Louisiana’s coastal erosion problems before the storm. ‘How can it be that Mr. Bill was better informed than Mr. Bush?’ Landrieu asked in her one hint of a laugh line all day. No one laughed.”
There’s only one problem with the Mr. Bill the Prophet tale. Mr. Bill was doing a PSA to preserve “America’s Wetland,” not build higher levees. Try finding the word “levee” in this story.