Those who follow the politics of rebuilding in Louisiana -- and many, frankly, have given up after months of false starts and neglect -- have found reason to get excited this week.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who since Katrina struck has struggled to find her voice, finally discovered that she didn't need to be eloquent to get her voice heard in Washington. She just needed to threaten the Beltway elite where it hurts, in the pocketbook.
Specifically, Blanco discovered a key leverage point she holds in her ongoing battle with federal officials who refuse to cough up the money needed for rebuilding: energy, specifically leases for offshore oil and gas that our country, as our President pointed out, is "addicted" to:
Five months after Katrina, much of the city remains in ruins and two-thirds of its population has not returned. Local and federal officials have blamed each other for the lack of a clear recovery plan and the White House has come out against a proposed bill that would have bailed out uninsured homeowners with billions of federal dollars.
Blanco, a Democrat, has threatened to block planned August sales of offshore oil and gas leases unless Washington agrees to give the state 50 percent of the royalties.
Louisiana currently gets no royalties from leases more than 6 miles off its coast and says it needs the billions of dollars it would receive to help repair coastal wetlands that oil industry development has left vulnerable to hurricanes.
The news headlines scream that Blanco is playing "hardball." It's a strange term -- why wasn't the federal government's 5+ months of neglect given a similar lable, such as "giving Louisiana the shaft"? -- but I think Blanco will take it. And whatever it's called, Louisiana may just have found the one issue this White House understands.