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Is the Media Treating Governor Blanco Unfairly? Earlier this week, in what is being described as "a bad joke gone awry," the Monroe Chamber of Commerce auctioned a dinner with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco for one dollar. "The meal sold to the first bidder," reports the Baton Rouge Advocate, which fails to mention that others had attempted to bid on the dinner. I suppose the auctioneer thought it was plain hilarious that someone had the gall to bid a dollar, even though the opening bid was set at $1000 (then quickly dropped to $500), and so she decided to end bidding immediately. It's worth noting that the Monroe Chamber of Commerce has since apologized for the incident and the man who won the dinner decided to donate $1000 for the meal after all (the most ever donated for a dinner with the governor). No matter, though, because the botched joke made for a funny headline, and it's been reported everywhere. The AP wires picked up the story. The Washington Post covered it. And even our very own KALB thought it newsworthy enough to write about. Perhaps they all believed it to be a sign of the times here in Louisiana. Perhaps they believed it was an indication that Louisianans have little respect for our governor. The truth, however, is that it was a poor attempt at humor and that ultimately, the dinner did, in fact, fetch the asking price of $1000. Of course, Governor Blanco isn't exactly having a fun time right now. Our State Legislature is split among party lines. Don Hines, a Democrat from Bunkie and President of the State Senate, was so incensed at Blanco axing funding for a syrup plant (which would have directly financially benefited his family) that he, along with members of the Republican Party, effectively blocked Blanco's special session agenda, in which nearly a billion dollars worth of funding was to be allocated for infrastructural repairs (at a time in which Louisiana needs them desperately) and teacher pay raises, among other things. We can dance around these issues all we want to. The Republicans would like to claim that they were exercising fiscal responsibility; however, the surplus represents monies that need to be directly invested back into the state, and the attempts to thwart this dispersement should be seen for what it is: party politics. I don't necessarily support everything Governor Blanco has done; there are many relevant questions we must ask about her handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (though it didn't help that our Commander in Chief was somewhere in California, unreachable to our Governor, playing the guitar while New Orleans went underwater). But I believe Governor Blanco has attempted to steer the state in the right direction. By the way, she had a big role in helping Alexandria land Union Tank Car, the largest new employer in the state of Louisiana in twenty years, and she is actively petitioning other large employers, including Toyota, to open shop in our state. Perhaps we should ask this question: Is the media treating Governor Blanco unfairly? No state has ever suffered something like the twin tragedies of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The two storms killed thousands of people (directly and indirectly), left hundreds of thousands without homes, and devastated one of America's finest cities. These disasters were not the fault of any one politician or public servant, though the destruction brought upon New Orleans was exacerbated by substandard levees and a poor evacuation plan. We want our politicians to be human, yet when they demonstrate human emotion, like weeping at the site of said devastation, they are lampooned by the media. Chad Rogers over at The Dead Pelican seems to think it's absolutely hilarious that Governor Blanco became emotional after Hurricane Katrina. It seems that every chance he gets he likes to publish this picture of a distraught Blanco after Katrina next to an unrelated story about policy. It's supposed to humiliate her: Look at this woman, crying, when she's supposed to be leading. The Washington Post even carried the same picture next to the article about the Monroe Chamber of Commerce auction. It's not relevant; it's intended to be embarrassing and-- get this-- funny. But when I see that picture of Governor Blanco, I am struck with a different emotion. I am reminded of the lives lost, of people punching through the roofs of their homes in order to seek refuge from the rising waters, of vast and total destruction, and I find it humbling and human that our governor was so affected by this tragedy. To me, the photo of Governor Blanco doesn't capture helplessness; it captures empathy, and those who use this image for their own political gain (like the website www.dontblamemeivotedforjindal.com) and those who use it in an ill-conceived attempt at humor (from a bully pulpit) are undermining this tragedy; they're exploiting the image of a woman who is grieving for her state and for the City of New Orleans. Louisiana wasn't attacked by a sovereign nation or a group of terrorists; we were attacked by a natural disaster. Again, I don't agree with everything Governor Blanco has done during her tenure, but I have to wonder what our reaction would be if President Bush or Representative Jindal was photographed weeping for Louisiana. Would the media say the same to those two men? Would they say, "It's hilarious that you're distraught. It must be a sign of poor leadership"? Or, instead, would they say, "Here is a man publicly distraught over the lost lives, a man who understands that the foundation of true leadership is empathy, a man who cares and is in touch with the effects of this disaster?" Perhaps we'll never know. Though I hope that somewhere, such a photo exists.