Posted: Aug. 30, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Sixth anniversaries usually do not call for much remembrance. First anniversaries, certainly, as well as fifths, tenths, twenty-fifths and naturally fiftieths, which are always real big ones, but sixths?

Surely the White House was just being super-diligent on Monday when it put out a statement from President Obama marking the six-year anniversary of Katrina. Surely it was not trying to draw a whopping contrast between those wretched sights in New Orleans and Irene?

That would be like hoisting a "Mission Accomplished" banner after getting Osama bin Laden.

Whatever, Katrina is the banshee that wails at presidents and governors in their nightmares. Handle a hurricane or else.

Kathleen Blanco did not. She was the Democratic governor of Louisiana during Katrina. It got her named one of the worst three governors in the country by Time magazine, and she did not even try to run again when her term was up two years later in 2007.

Haley Barbour did. As the Republican governor of Mississippi, he was credited with so much purpose during the same storm that he was named a "Public Official of the Year" by Governing magazine and regarded as presidential material.

People have a tendency to be very serious about the general welfare and domestic tranquility.

Jack Markell has staked his governorship on jobs, jobs, jobs, but by the weekend, it was also going to be about rain, rain, rain. This is Mother Nature and her evil twin, Brazen Politics.

Markell, a Democrat now in his third year, has done well enough on jobs, jobs, jobs that there is not even a whisper of an opponent for him in 2012, although it does not hurt that the state Republicans have been on the skids. Irene still could be a difference maker.

Markell is not a rookie on threats of nature. Before Irene churned up the coast toward Delaware, he already had confronted blizzards and swine flu, not to mention an earthquake earlier in the week.

"This one took it to a whole 'nother level," Markell said.

Tornado and flooding and hurricane, oh my. There were evacuations, driving restrictions, downed trees, power outages, wrecked homes and a tragic double drowning, but it was no Katrina. The sun came out afterwards, and what a surprise, it was still summer.

"I've got an amazingly talented team who did an amazing job," Markell said. "We were fortunate to dodge the bullet, compared to what it might be. Sometimes it's good to be lucky."

Markell's most welcome act? Probably his directive sending the vacationers away from the beaches early. No less of a likely critic than Bill Lee, the ex-judge who was the Republican candidate running against Markell for governor in 2008, said so.

"You have to put safety first. They got the tourists out, and that was fabulous," said Lee, who lives in Rehoboth Beach himself.

"The governor did his job, and he did it efficiently. My one complaint was a local complaint. They shut the bars in Dewey at 8 p.m., and they could have left them open all night," he quipped.

Markell kept himself in the thick of it. Not only was he on the move, he conducted five press conferences and press calls, plus another 40 interviews, either by telephone or live on camera, along with a host of contacts by Twitter and Facebook.

It was a heck of a storm, Delaware. Not the fatal praise of a heck of a job, Jack.