John McCain "Awkward" in N.O. About His "More Privileged Past"

Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller followed John McCain onhis trip to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which suffered the most because of Hurricane Katrina, and filed a harshly cynical story to Thursday afternoon - much of which was removed from the version that eventually appeared on Friday morning's front page.

From Bumiller's Thursday afternoon filing:

Senator John McCain took direct aim at the Bush administration on Thursday as he stood in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and declared that "never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled."

Mr. McCain, who was on the fourth day of a tour of America's "forgotten places" to try to prove that he is a compassionate Republican, ticked off a long list of mistakes: "There was unqualified people in charge, there was a total misreading of the dimensions of the disaster, there was a failure of communications."


Derided by Democrats as an exploitive publicity stunt, promoted by Mr. McCain's advisers as evidence that he is determined to tackle poverty, the senator's tour is aimed far beyond the people of Selma, Ala., or Inez, Ky., whom he visited. Mr. McCain is trying to appeal to independents and moderates who might see him as a kindler, gentler Republican. As the candidate put it on Thursday, "I don't know how many votes I'm going to get in Selma, and I don't know how many votes I'm going to get here in the city of New Orleans."

Mr. McCain has seemed both moved and awkward this week, and at times defensive about his own more privileged past. But he and the Republican Party are unlikely to let voters forget about his time in the forgotten places before the election in November.

Does Bumiller's reckoning of McCain's "privileged past" include his five-and-a-half years in a P.O.W. camp in North Vietnam?

None of the highlighted text above made it into the final version of Bumiller's story, which focused more on McCain's criticism of the Bush Administration's response to Katrina.