The politics of hurricane relief:
A less obvious what-might-have-been worth considering is, what if Katrina had struck during an election year? Would the Bush administration have swooped in with a more muscular, proactive response to the catastrophe? After all, the administration's previous track record on hurricane relief might lead one to believe its performance this time could have been far superior.
FEMA's often invisible and incompetent reaction to the devastation in New Orleans stands in sharp contrast to the way the relief agency and the entire Bush administration sprang into action last summer as a series of deadly hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne -- battered the crucial swing state of Florida just weeks before Election Day.
There's no question that the scale of the New Orleans disaster far surpasses what Florida faced. But even so, a look back at the administration's relief efforts in 2004 indicates that a quick response to a potentially politically damaging situation commanded a higher priority from the top levels of government back then than did the flooding of New Orleans in 2005.