The entire Gulf Coast was devastated Monday, but the big story was in downtown New Orleans.
Sometime Tuesday, the news networks began airing broadcasts of conditions there, and the plight of the stranded.
Almost all of us asked: how can the news networks get camera crews, security, and supplies into the city when the federal government--Homeland Security, FEMA, and Northern Command--cannot?
In an interview on Thursday, FEMA director Mike Brown seems oblivious to the situation in New Orleans.
Then comes Friday, and the White House spin machine kicks into high gear:
Morning, Mister Bush on the White House lawn. He's aware of the situation. The results of the rescue effort are not acceptable, but not to worry. He's going down there right now and see what's going on for his own self.
Later in the morning, we get word through the news that a National Guard convoy is on its way to Louisiana.
Mister Bush arrives at a Coast Guard base in Mississippi and jumps off Air Force One.
The contingent and the cameras move into an aircraft hangar. We get a glimpse of Karl Rove lurking in the background.
The spontaneous staged event begins. Two Republican governors, Chertoff, and Brown, crowd around the boss in front of a camera and begin briefing him on the situation. Two Coast Guard captains join the party, then an enlisted rescue diver. Mister Bush shakes the enlisted man's hand then gives an "impromptu" speech.
The Republican governors are terrific leaders. FEMA director "Brownie" is doing a bang up job.
The camera pans back to show the hangar's walls lined with Coast Guard personnel, standing smartly at parade rest for the Commander in Chief.
Mister Bush and the governors and the Homeland Security guys pile into a helicopter and head out to inspect the region.
Back at MSNBC studios, a pretty talking head interviews "analyst" Dan Goure. Goure blames the situation in New Orleans on the city and state governments. Neither he or pretty talking head mention that New Orleans' mayor and Louisiana's governor are Democrats, or offer any explanation as to why they weren't invited along on Mister Bush's inspection tour.
And neither Goure or pretty head mention anything about Goure's long time neo-conservative ties to groups like the Project for a New American Century and administration luminaries like Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, and John Bolton.
Back to live coverage of the inspection tour. Mister Bush has his arms around two crying women who have lost their home. The women are black.
Back at the news studio, we're told Mister Bush's scheduled address from New Orleans will be delayed. Around this time we also hear the National Guard convoy hasn't made it to the Superdome or the New Orleans Convention Center yet. And what's this? We're going to see who give a press conference? Condi Rice? The Secretary of Spamalot? What in the wide world of sports is that about? Has Karl Rove lost control of the situation, or has he lost his mind?
Condi at the White House:
Talks about all the countries that have offered assistance. No, contrary to what we've heard, Mister Bush hasn't turned any of them down.
She opens the floor to questions. The second or third one asks if she thinks the delayed federal response to New Orleans was due to most of the refugees being poor and black.
MSNBC (I don't know about the other networks) puts an inset image on screen, a replay of Mister Bush hugging the crying black women.
Aha! Uncle Karl's on top of his game after all!
Condi says no, she can't imagine that race would have had anything to do with anything.
Watching and listening, I wonder if Condi's wearing a pair of those thousand dollar pumps she bought while she was in New York City.
The National Guard Military Police have reached the Superdome and the Convention Center.
And here comes Mister Bush, jumping out of Marine Corps One at some remote, unidentified location in New Orleans. He talks. I can't listen any more.
Saturday morning, Mister Bush gives another speech from in front of the White House. As he walks away, somebody brave shouts: "Why did it take so long?"
Mister Bush looks to see who said that, waves, and keeps going.
Looking in the rear view mirror:
I see my country: the superpower that can't contain an insurgency halfway across the world and couldn't--or wouldn't--provide timely relief to disaster survivors in one of its own major cities.
And I see my country's leaders focusing their efforts on an emergency public relations damage control operation in a desperate attempt to save their political careers.
I'm guessing that's what most of the rest of the world sees too.
And I'm wondering, this fine Saturday morning of the Labor Day weekend, how much longer the federal government's rescue effort would have stalled if it weren't for the news media bringing the situation in New Orleans to their attention.