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White House Moves to Contain Political Fallout From Katrina<P>By Adam Nagourney 

White House Moves to Contain
Political Fallout From Katrina

By Adam Nagourney 
and Anne E. Kornblut


Under the command of President Bush’s two senior political advisers, the White House this weekend rolled out a plan to contain the political damage from the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

It orchestrated visits by Cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Bush to New Orleans on Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

The effort is being directed by Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican congressional aides.

As a result, Americans watching the television coverage of the tragedy this weekend began to see, amid the images of destruction and suffering, some of the highest-profile members of the administration — Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state — touring storm-damaged communities.

Bush himself is to return to Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday; his first visit, on Friday, left some Republicans cringing, in part because the president had little contact with residents left homeless.

Republicans said the administration’s effort to stanch the damage had been helped by the fact that convoys of troops and supplies had finally begun to arrive by the time the administration officials turned up. All of those developments were covered closely by television

In many ways, the unfolding public relations campaign reflects the style Rove has brought to the political campaigns he has run for Bush.

“We will have time to go back and do an after-action report, but the time right now is to look at what the enormous tasks ahead are,” Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”