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White House Site Un-Slams Bush on Katrina

Direct criticism of the Bush Administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina was deleted from whitehouse.govChangeTracker, our vigilant and all-seeing widget, is barely a day old, and already it’s netted a revealing tweak to the White House Web site.

If you’d dialed up the "Additional Issues" portion of the Web site’s "Agenda" section earlier this week, the entry on Hurricane Katrina would have left you with zero doubt about who was to blame for the governmental failure to respond to the storm: the Bush administration. "President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast," the section read, continuing:

"President Obama swiftly responded to Hurricane Katrina. Citing the Bush Administration's ‘unconscionable ineptitude’ in responding to Hurricane Katrina, then-Senator Obama introduced legislation requiring disaster planners to take into account the specific needs of low-income hurricane victims." (Emphasis mine.)

The language was eye-raising enough to merit a brief story in Politico last month ("New White House Site Slams Bush") and a complaint from the conservative blog the Corner: "Does this really have to appear on the White House website?"

Well, apparently not. As of today, ChangeTracker tells us, the references to the Bush administration have been deleted. You can see a side-by-side comparison of the new and old version of the passages here.

The old language (click on the image to see the comparison):

The new version (click on the image to see the comparison):

The new version remains highly critical of the government response, to be sure, but readers are left to themselves to finger blame. We’ve put in a call to the White House for an explanation of the change, and we’ll let you know if they get back to us.

This isn’t the first time that Obama’s transition from campaigner to above-the-political-fray executive has revealed itself on his Web sites. Back in November, we noted that Obama’s transition site had muted many of the direct criticisms of Bush: Gone, for instance, was a passage stating, "The Bush Administration has been one of the most secretive, closed administrations in American history."

Obama bashed Bush on the stump continuously for about 20 months. But by and large, the White House Web site has abstained from conspicuous criticisms of Bush – resulting in an oddly unblemished biography of our 43rd president on the site, one, as Slate noted, that "says nothing about Iraq, Katrina, Gitmo, Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales, or anything else you might've lost sleep over these past eight years."

Note: For those of you wanting to use our ChangeTracker widget to keep tabs on changes at the Web site of your choice, check out our tutorial.