As key Senators in both parties push President Bush to name a "hurricane czar" to take charge of the Katrina aftermath, some Administration officials relish the notion of outsourcing their Category 5 headache. But the idea of a superpowerful hurricane guy hit a major obstacle: Vice President Dick Cheney, who--eight days after Katrina made landfall--was put in charge of assessing whether the Administration was meeting its goals in the relief effort.
G.O.P. officials say Cheney opposed a czar largely out of his affection for standard operating procedure. But a presidential adviser tells TIME that Cheney was also concerned that the new office would invite more meddling by Congress and create another power center. "If you appoint a czar and he doesn't get what he wants, like if you start to tamp down the spending, all he has to do is go to the press and create sympathy for his viewpoint and make it difficult for the President," the adviser says. Bush and his inner circle agreed, with little debate, top aides said.
So the idea of having one person oversee everything appears to be dead. A more palatable solution, to Bush aides, would be appointing a less powerful official--a commissar just to oversee rebuilding. That would leave the Coast Guard's Vice Admiral Thad Allen, according to a White House official, "in charge of recovery operations and stabilizing the situation on the ground." A Senate Democratic aide said such a split would probably be acceptable to Congress. Administration officials say they have talked to potential redevelopment chiefs. Possibilities include former Louisiana Senator John Breaux, retired General Tommy Franks and General Electric's ex-CEO Jack Welch. Republicans also say a surprise contender is former Commerce Secretary Don Evans, known as Bush's best friend. Meanwhile, Cheney is preparing to undergo elective surgery Sept. 24 to treat an aneurysm in an artery behind his knee and scheduled the procedure for a weekend--so he wouldn't miss a day on the job. --By Mike Allen