Kathleen Babineaux Blanco | Louisiana

Failures aren't born. They're made. Before Hurricane Katrina, it wasn't the job of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to plan for the evacuation of the elderly and poor from New Orleans. Afterward, she wasn't in charge of the federal response. But it was her job to give her constituents heart by looking decisive, steadfast and capable. Even if she wasn't.

When it mattered most, Blanco appeared "dazed and confused," says Bernie Pinsonat, a bipartisan political consultant in Baton Rouge, La. When NBC's Matt Lauer asked her whether it was hard to find words to reassure the public, she tried to muster...

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