September 3, 2005

Katrina political rhetoric.

Can you imagine what it would be like if the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans were Republicans? Lots of tricky rhetorical twistiness is needed to pull off the blame Bush maneuver. Or — oh hell, why bother? — just blame Bush for everything. After all, the mayor cried. And the governor is all sad-faced. Bush is squaring his jaw and doing that cowboyish walk and talk. Doesn't that make you so mad? He doesn't care!


Elliott said...

Ann you are such a centrist. You're not right wing. You just repeat Republican talking points.

Ann Althouse said...

When did you start reading this blog? Two minutes ago? Go read all my Katrina coverage and then come back and say something that makes sense.

Elliott said...

I've been reading you for two years and you never fail to posture as a centrist and come down firmly on the right. Your readers even told you so, but you spun the result away in your own mind.

The Tiger said...

If Professor Althouse is coming down on the right, as you say, does that not say something about the options we have?

When something is repeated over and over by various independent sources, sometimes it isn't just spin. Sometimes it's... true.

Too Many Jims said...

Kanye came off like an idiot and his remarks were not helpful to anyone. That said, the White House PR machine really needs to be refined a bit. Between carrying his dog off the helicopter to looking forward to sitting on the porch of Lott's re-built house while others are facing current life threatening situations, it is not all his fault but he could do a better job of conveying his concerns.

Clinton was mocked for "feeling your pain" but the fact of the matter is Reagan had the ability in spades too.

Elliott said...

Excuse me. I can find plenty of non-partisan sources that blame the federal government without assigning blame to state and local response teams. (I can find many that blame the response at all levels too.) I cannot find a single non-Republican source not trying to shift blame from Bush to the state and local authorities. The "twisting" that happens if pretty exclusively Republican based on those sources

Internet Ronin said...

The governor cried, too, as I remember, at one of her first press briefings. (A public service comment provided in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due.)

Seriously, it seems to me that it is unfortunate that Bobby Jindal is not the governor - with his track record, I think he would have met the challenge far differently and more effectively. Of course, there is no way of knowing for sure.

After witnessing 5 years of unceasing and mindless Bush hatred, I was still astounded by the immediate and venomous nature of this latest manifestation.

Jake said...

You might wonder why New York could deal with a crisis and New Orleans could not. Here are the reasons:

One city had a Republican mayor who cleaned up the lawlessness that Democrats had allowed to flourish.

Another city had a Democrat mayor who allowed the lawlessness to explode into everyday chaos.

One city had a Republican mayor that reformed a corrupt city government so that it became effective.

Another city had a Democrat mayor who allowed a corrupt city government to become even more ineffective and corrupt.

One city had a Republican mayor who mobilized city administration and the citizens to deal with the crisis.

Another city had a Democrat mayor who had his administration abandon the people and flee from danger.

One state had a Republican governor who mobilized state resources to deal with the crisis.

Another state had a Democrat governor who did nothing because of incompetence and cowardice.

Internet Ronin said...

Jake -

That may be true, but it would be wise to remember that one city's catastrophe involved a few buildings concentrated in a small area, and its transportation and communication sytems were largely intact. The other was almost completely under water, its roads useless, and the communication systems are still inoperable almost a week later.

Too Many Jims said...


Thanks for wrapping that up so nicely for us. That will solve all of our problems in the future. We just need to make sure that no catastrophes happen in our most populated cities that have democratic mayors.

If we are going to compare the performance on 9/11 to NO (which is assinine becuase they faced different situations) I will grant that Rudy performed exceptionally. Pataki did not; he was carried by Giuliani. The one thing that the early stages of both situations had in common is that Bush performed terribly. But I am playing it straight.

Too Many Jims said...


I know that you are trying to play it straight but over the last 24 + hours you have been much more likely to say (or agree) that the problems with federal coordination were the result of failures at the state and local level than to place the blame on the administration. The dissection of this is going to take some time, I have no idea which is right; but, like you said, undoubtedly some people will look silly after the analysis is done.

Jake said...

A better answer is to not live in cities with Democrat mayors. By doing so you will have a safer, longer and a more pleasant life.

Elliott said...

Guess Bush is risking his life at the White House.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, Jim, thanks for tracking my politics in tight 24 hour increments. I would have thought people would think I'd gone way to the left since Katrina! I've blamed the federal government plenty. Just look at the posts! But I can see that Democrats are hard at work at spinning to get all the blame to go to the feds. If I call them on that, suddenly I'm receiving Republican talking points. Ha! Why wasn't I accused of getting Democratic talking points when I did some of those other posts? I've said it a hundred times: the right and the left read me differently and respond to me differently -- at least the ones who write about politics on the web. I know plenty of sensible left wing people, but they don't seem to want to write publicly about politics for some reason. Well, I think I know the reason: they are afraid to get slammed and shunned by their own. Because that is the technique. Good luck with that strategy. It's not very effective.

bearing said...

Instapundit has linked to the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan.

Read it, at least the parts about hurricanes and evacuations.

The city plan, among other things, includes the sentence "Transportation will be provided to those persons requiring public transportation from the area." Love that passive voice: who did they think would provide it?

Undeniably, local screwups have exacerbated any federal screwups that followed. Every city in the United States should be taking notes.

I've learned my lesson: have a week of supplies for my family at the ready, including gasoline, effective the next time I go grocery shopping. And I live in Minnesota.

todd said...

Ann, one reason there is such rage at Bush right now, is that he and the Republican party have spent the last 4 years arguing that the best way to keep America safe is to keep Bush in the White House and the Republicans in power in Washington. Now, a major disaster has struck -- one not unlike some kinds of terrorist attacks -- and the federal government has fallen flat on its face. On a political level, it doesn't matter whether there is also state and local culpability. This is about making a promise to the nation and then failing to live up to it. What if thousands of people died needlessly because of the delay? Can you imagine what the Republicans would be saying if it was a Democratic president?

Arthur said...

You might want to check out the history of the current head of FEMA. He is certainly not a capable administrator by any means. There's a discussion of this at Talking Points Memo.

In any case, anyone who had done the least bit of research on hurricanes and new orleans would have realized that NO was extremely vulnerable to a category 4 or 5, and that he levees might break, allowing for serious flooding. The vulnerabililty of New Orleans, given its geography, was not a secret, and a potentially horrific aftermath to a future hurricane had been forecast on NPR, in National Geographic, and in the American Prospect.

Why didn't GW start moving carrier battle groups into place, so that the helicopters could perform rescue missions in the aftermath of the hurricane? Why is the Navy hospital ship only now making its way down to the gulf? I'm sure the locals made some mistakes, but they also have nowhere near the resources of the federal government.

Bush had enormous resources at his disposal before the hurricane--but due to a lack of imagination and an incredible passivity, did very little to mobilize them.

In any case, it is our moral responsibility to shame this president into taking more action. It seems likely that Bush granted as much tsunami aid as he did last year after he had received a great deal of criticism for displaying a lack of concern about Asian victims. The man has little sense of responsibility or empathy, but he does have a sense of shame, so let's go to work!

in_the_middle said...

in this day of tivo, evidence is piling up as reporters on the scene literally cry (geraldo rivera) or shout back at their politicized hosts in their new york studio (shepard smith at sean hannity on fox), or ted koppel buttonholing one of the biggest lightning rods of blame, mike brown of fema (this one seems most deserved). just go to to see the videos yourself.

and it includes dimwits like kanye west.

the blame comes down to several people, regardless of party affiliation. why everyone has to put a donkey or an elephant on it is beyond me. people on both sides have performed heroically. and people on both sides have performed dismally.

ann, you've done a great job resisting the outrage. personally, i'm not that good. i have laid this at the doorstep of the governor, the mayor, and most definitely the white house.

those three offices have to answer for those people whose loved ones died before their eyes at a convention center they were locked into by the government.

you cannot spin this any. other. way.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I ranted about this on Jeff jarvis' site, but it's worth repeating (less of a rant perhaps.)

Bush declared an emergency on Saturday, and apparently had to beg for the evactation to be made manditory. Somehow, not even in accord with its own disaster plan, new orleans' buses weren't used for the evacuation.

So what could Bush have done? Federalized the National Guard, declared martial law, overruled the Governor and Mayor, and forced people out of New Orleans at gunpoint? (I'm not absolutely sure that even that could have evacuated 100,000 people, but I'm sure nothing less would have done it.)

But now think, friends on the Left: do you really want Bush to have the power to overrule the Governor and mayor, declare martial law, and evict the mostly poor and black residents of New Orleans?

If not, can you come up with some other scheme that would have been physically possible and a little more detailed than "Bush should have done something!"

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Oh, and don't tell me any more about the lack of levees as Bush's fault: the decision to do only cat 3 was made long before Bush was in office, and the project to make cat-5 levees would have taken 30 years --- and Bush has only been President for five. (It would also have made living in NO like living at the bottom of a bucket, but that's a side issue.)

Ann Althouse said...

In the middle: I think I've expressed a lot of outrage in various posts. I'm also outraged at people exploiting the disaster for political purposes.

Charles: Very well put.

Paul said...

And that's all that need said. would that they all shutup and help as much as we can. This blog toadys to no one.
I am not taking my guidance from a rapper, though, I find them suspect.

Paul said...

And that's all that need said. would that they all shutup and help as much as we can. This blog toadys to no one.
I am not taking my guidance from a rapper, though, I find them suspect.

in_the_middle said...

it was a compliment, ann, not a criticism.

but anyone here who can't find fault with the federal response is not watching fema's reaction. the federal governemnt stepped in after the storm. you can't blame them for the lack of preparation, the lack of evacuation. you can blame that one the ineptitude of the city and state government.

but the federal response? i'll repeat it: pathetic and inexcusable.

who do you blame? 'brownie", as bush referred to him as he merrily endorsed his job performance yesterday? he's a good lightning rod. but who hired him? who resisted calls to fire him after disaster relief scandals last year in florida?

if you're going to not resist politicization or blaming at this point, you are bound to look foolish attempting to blame one party, one arm of the government without looking at the performance of the other.

the evidence is right in front of you.

Wave Maker said...

What is it with this compulsion that whenever something horrible happens it must be SOMEONE'S FAULT? We must have someone to BLAME?

Is it that incomprehensible that when a Cat 5 hurrican hits a city that is below sea level, it will be physically impossible for transportation, food and water to reach people for a few days? Is someone at fault because there are not boat launches dispersed strategically throughout the city's perimeter in the event this event occurs?

This is a natural disaster that occurs once in -- what, hundreds of years? And it's someone's fault that it hadn't been planned for so meticulously that food and water was immediately available?

You folks that can't resist pointing fingers -- put your fingers in your pockets until victims aren't suffering further. Your hasty recriminations are tawdry.

Joan said...

And it's someone's fault that it hadn't been planned for so meticulously that food and water was immediately available?

Well, Wave Maker, it's certainly the mayor's fault for not having food, water, and other supplies available at the SuperDome and the Convention Center. Once he designated those sites as temporary shelters, why did he not follow through and ensure that they were equipped to handle the people who were coming? The possibility of a power outage was about 100%, but there was no effort to get fuel or generators, or even port-a-johns to those sites.

I won't even get into the apparent complete lack of effort to evacuate the indigent population.

Say what you will about the Feds, 1) they can't come in until they're asked and 2) it takes time to mobilize a huge relief effort. Heck, it takes me a while just to organize me and my 3 kids for a day-long outing. I don't even want to think about the logistics required for moving in rescuers in a way that doesn't quickly leave them vulnerable, as well.

I think I read it first here in another comment thread, and I'm sorry I can't attribute this idea, but it makes sense to me: it is the responsibility of the local and state governments to hold the fort for a day or two or three, until the Feds can move in, in force, to help. Even if the Feds have been negligent (I don't think so), you have to acknowledge that the local officials have really dropped the ball.

What do people in crisis want from the leaders? A strong example, "We'll get through this, here's what I want you to do:..." or blaming, swearing, and tears? I was embarrassed by the performance of the mayor the other day, swearing and blaming everyone else for the situation.

peter hoh said...

Well, I'm never sure if I'm on the right or left -- my conservative blogger neighbor sees me as left-leaning, and that's okay with me. Short answer for me is that as this unfolds, I am more outraged by the failure to prepare and execute at the local level.

I'm tired of hearing people say that we could take aid to the tsunami victims or repair the electrical grid in Bhagdad, why can't we do something in New Orleans? We'll do more for N.O. than either of those other places, and more quickly. But we can't do it instantly. That's not how the federal response works.

There are federal blunders, to be sure. The streamlined response that was supposed to happen with the Department of Homeland Security in charge has been a disappointment.

Larry said...

You can see this sort of thing in ways small and large, and in particular you can see it in most workplaces: whenever something goes badly, there are those whose first instinct is how to help fix it, and those whose first instinct is who to blame for it (and it's never themselves). While it's true that we need to be able to assess blame, along with responsibility and accountability eventually, the impulse to attack through blame is not just unhelpful -- in a deeper sense it's destructive, because it creates a culture in which everyone involved looks first and foremost to find ways to cover their own ass. And when you see that, and then look again at the sorry spectacle of political blame-gaming and ass-covering that's been happening over Katrina, you might come to the conclusion that, at this stage, the first people who really deserve some blame are those vociferous and certain hind-sighters, the blamers themselves.

(Which, by the way, on the basis of this post and other comments, I don't think includes Ann. Just to be clear.)

David Leftwich said...

Blah, blah, blah…this much energy, time and thought should be spent on relief efforts. There will be plenty of time for postmortems when everyone has reached safety and the flood waters have cleared. Maybe it’s because people are frustrated that they can’t personally do more (I am and I’ve donated money, supplies, and time – spent all day yesterday helping evacuees at Reliant Arena in Houston) that they start playing the blame game while some people are still trapped in horrible conditions. Even though there will be plenty of blame to go around--the response from Bush, the feds, and local governments have been lacking, as were preparations for what had long been predicated as the worst possible disaster to occur in the United States, a category 4 or 5 hurricane slamming into New Orleans—now is not the time to start doling it out.

And isn’t convenient for the punditry-industrial complex that the president is a repub and the mayor and gov are dems. We will probably never get a true picture of what really happened because each side can now conveniently blame the other, instead of examining what went wrong, and right, at all levels of government.

Sloanasaurus said...

I don't think it necessarily matters that the mayor and Governor are democrats, what matters is their total failure at personal leadership. Blaming the federal government and crying on TV for your own failings is a sure sign that you are losing it. In the end, the State and City governments are the soverigns of the people of Louisana. Help is never an entitlement. You always should be grateful no matter what kind of help you are getting.

There are plenty of democrats who could provide the kind of stoic leadership needed in these moments. They are just not in New Orleans or Louisana.

DaveG said...

This is along the lines of Ann's original question:

It's a screen shot of a poll on with one question:

How much responsibility should President Bush shoulder for the chaos in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina?

No mention at all of responsibility being shouldered by the Governor of the state, arguably the person with a far closer responsibility for disaster preparations in Louisiana than the President of the US. Is she overlooked because of her party affiliation?

That, I believe, was the point Ann was making.

EddieP said...

Wow, Bush declared the disaster on Saturday, two days before the storm came up. Should he have declared it earlier? He begged the Mayor and Governor to begin the evacuation immediately, should he have done that say a week before? Even with a request in hand, it takes 72 hours to mobilize the National Guard. These are citizen soldiers who have family to look after as well. They don't sit around in barracks awaiting some disaster call. Should they have been mobilized earlier? The Mayor has huundreds of buses sitting around all weekend. Did he dispatch a single one to the Superdome? Why weren't water and food dispatched by the mayor and the governor by Sunday at the latest?

It is, and remains a local/state responsibility to manage local crises. I don't want the feds poking around everytime they think there might be a problem, I want my state and local guys to handle it and ask for help from the feds when they need it. As for ships being dispatched sooner, are you serious? Into the teeth of a Cat5 hurricane? The fleet is in Norfolk, at flank speed it can travel at about 30 miles an hour, do the math!

The City levee was engineered to survive a Cat 3 storm. Right or wrong, that has been the agreed to risk assessment for many, many years. The rebuilt levees that failed were built to that standard. How is Bush to blame for any of this? We have a Congress that plans and funds these activities. If they come up short, go to the source.

No more hand wringing from bleeding hearts, please!

Jonathan said...

Elliot wrote:
I cannot find a single non-Republican source not trying to shift blame from Bush to the state and local authorities. The "twisting" that happens if pretty exclusively Republican based on those sources

I assume you meant "a single Republican source," but your comment is ridiculous either way. It's obvious that Bush's political opponents have been working assiduously to frame the issue in terms of federal rather than state-and-local ineptitude (yes, I know it's both). For example, on NPR yesterday I heard Sheila Jackson Lee, Julianne Malveaux and the mayor of Homestead, FL -- aided by a sympathetic host who asked repeated softball questions about the failure of the federal response -- do almost nothing besides criticize the feds. I don't remember anyone even raising the question of whether the local response could have been better. The whole show came across as a partisan setup.

One of the discussants asserted that the federal govt would not allow a similar situation to develop in Boston -- IOW, Bush & Co. are racists. Of course, the more likely reason why it wouldn't happen is that Boston is much better run than NO.

This kind of exploitative partisanship is disgusting no matter which party engages in it. So far Democrats, with notable exceptions, are looking worse on this score than are Republicans.

David Leftwich said...

To Sloanasaurus,

I agree that the officials in Louisiana have not stepped up to the plate, as Giuliani did after 9/11. But neither has Bush. I voted for him, and voted for him to provide leadership for the country. And he has failed during Katrina, just as he mucked up Social Security reform, which I support, and has lead us to the largest federal deficit on record. But that aside, I’m just saying that both sides will let political affiliation cloud their judgment.

As for being grateful for help, the people from New Orleans were very grateful for the help – ONCE THEY GOT IT. All day yesterday as I was helping evacuees, they were all very appreciate of what we doing for them, and kept thanking us.

I’m for limited government and, your probably right that help in not an entitlement, but help during a large scale crisis that overwhelms the individuals, the city, and state governments ability to respond is one of things a national government has the capability to provide and should provide.

Also, anyone who thinks this is just a local crisis not a national crisis, should not only look at the gas pumps but at the barges lined-up along the Mississippi loaded with this year’s grain, soybean, and corn crop—most of the grain exported in the US passes through the port of New Orleans, as do many other imports and exports.

Susan said...

Jonathon wrote: "Of course, the more likely reason why it wouldn't happen is that Boston is much better run than NO."

Oh, yeah. Quick, efficient, flawless - some of the words I would use to describe Bostonian public efforts in, for example, highway building.

Jonathan said...

I realize that Boston is poorly run, but New Orleans is worse. It's been one of the worst-run cities in the USA.

J said...

Re: After all, the mayor cried. And the governor is all sad-faced. Bush is squaring his jaw and doing that cowboyish walk and talk. Doesn't that make you so mad?

It does make me mad.

Ann, it is, if nothing else, insensitive to tell jokes at a funeral - even if you don't know the person in the casket. I admit I come to this story being no fan of Mr. Bush, but don't you see how his goofy-grinned "sittin' on Trent's new porch" response might make make a lot of us angry? The mayor and the governor had an appropriate understandable emotional response. Bush acted like he was clueless.

Elliott said...

It doesn't really matter what I say, but I'll leave you with this link.

"The Politics of Snow Removal"

Elliott said...

Damn my incompetence.

It doesn't really matter what I say, but I'll leave you with this link.

"The Politics of Snow Removal"

Susan said...

I agree that Bush has really bungled the "proper demeanor" and other PR superficial yet important challenges.

On the other hand, being from Florida, I have seen how really brilliant his brother Jeb is at this same task. Just the right amount of concern and gravity. I've remarked several times as hurricanes have approached and he's there on the TV, how he manages to project a comforting calm and I'm-in-charge-of my constituents-welfare-and-things-will-be-the-best-they-can-be demeanor. A really marked difference.

Jonathon: You're right, over decades New Orleans has been one of the worst run and corrupt cities in America. And Louisiana one of the worst states. But I couldn't resist a dig at Boston when you brought it up as a comparison.

Joan said...

Jill said: The mayor and the governor had an appropriate understandable emotional response.

I don't want an emotional response from my leaders. An emotional response such as the mayor and governor put on is decidedly inappropriate. How are tears and recriminations appropriate? How do they help? They are not, they don't.

Feelings don't get you very far when there is work to be done. What I'm seeing is a lot of CYA from boo-hooing LA officials, as if having the right feelings excuses their incompetence leading up to, and after the hurricane.

ATMX said...

Elliot, you just repeat Dem talking points.

One Interesting thing to note was Nagin was a Republican who changed parties to run for mayor of NO.

Anyway, all I will say is this, don't criticize people until you walk a mile in their shoes. People who expect an instant or even quick response after a wide area disaster like Katrina are unrealistic fools.

PatCA said...

Again, I agree with Ann. And the reason so many of us centrists look like rightists is because leftists reflexively blame Bush for everything. Besides the sobbing and the swearing of LA Dems, the spectacle of the black (Dem) caucus spouting off in air-conditioned splendor in DC was beyond belief. It looked like something post Civil War. Please, give me one Demcrat with backbone I can trust with my safety.

My goodness, Nagin and Blanco were responsible for a city of majority poor, uneducated, sickly and with lots of murderous thugs. They didn't even move the buses to high ground! What was Bush to do, invade? Yeah, that would go over big.

Too Many Jims said...

Having read your blog for more than 24 hours, I know that you do not just post right wing talking points. In fact, I suspect that if someone sent you such talking points you would discuss or post them on your blog.

My unfortunate reference to 24 hours was because it was about 24 hours from when you had posted your thoughts on Kos' politicizing the situation. You said in that post: "Justified outrage about the response to Katrina is — not surprisingly — merged with the usual partisan politics. On the other side, people are excusing Bush and putting all the blame on state and local government."

I kknow that you have "played it straight" in the sense that your assessment has not been govened by the party affiliation of the ox being gored. My concern was about a specific way in which some are apologizing for the administration's performance in this crisis.

Specifically, the notion that the federal government cannot deploy assets until the Governor requests the assistance. This is most probably an accurate statement of the law. It does not, however, mean that the federal government can't do anything. I suspect they can, for example, monitor what the state and local authorities are doing. Could the FEMA head have called Bush on Sunday and said "Jesus, she is incompetent. They are not evacuating enough people. Get her to let us help." Could Bush have called Landrieu or other members of the LA delegation that the Governor would listen to to get her to request/accept federal help? At a minimum, when the levies broke on Monday night/Tuesday morning, after being advised of the consequences of such breach by the Corps of Engineers, could the President have said: "Madame governor, request that we help or I will tell the world that you will not let us help."

In response to a very good question by another commenter, I would say no I do not want Bush (or Clinton or whichever President) from sending in federal troops in without the Governor asking. I wouldn't, however, mind the feds looking over my State's shoulder.

By the way, I am not a democrat. I do not have an interest in the blame for this landing at Bush's feet. I suspect when the post-mortem (excuse the term) is complete there will be lots of blame to go around with the Governor (deservedly) getting more than her share.

My apologies for any offense taken.


ploopusgirl said...

Oh, truly, Susan. Boston, that cesspool of moral depravity and *GASP* democrats! deserves all the digs you can serve up. Relevance isn't your forte, eh?

Chum said...

could the President have said: "Madame governor, request that we help or I will tell the world that you will not let us help."

She did in a letter of August 28. She requested that he declare and expedited major disaster for Louisana.

From FEMA's website.
"In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness."

It appears the Govenor did everything she could to get the Fed's moving.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Everything Bush does is wrong.

-Fly over N.O. and you are insensitive.
-Get out of the plane and hug black people and you are playing to the cameras and angling for the black vote (which, of course, will still be uniformly voting Democrat anyway, unlike every other ethnic group).
-Appear tough and square jawed and you are a not feeling their pain.
-Speak softly and shed a tear and you are insincere, half a man even (which in the average liberal view would thus make George a leprechaun, since they already have him down to midget size already).
-Wait to allow local authorities the time to do their jobs and you are called uncaring.
-Overrule local authority and (if the levees don't break)you are then seen as Palpatine himself, Darth Bushious making a grab for Mardi Gras booty.

In situations like this, Bush needs to toss on a nice "F.U." t-shirt and do as he pleases, knowing that if he literally raises the dead and walks on water (purifying said water with his feet), that someone will still be bitching about how the loaves to feed five thousand are not focaccia.

iocaste said...

Newspapers across the country are criticizing Bush's response, or FEMA, including many, many newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2004. All of them are terrified because we had two days of warning for Katrina, the effects were not unlike what we'd see in a major terrorist situation, and we still had our officials bumping into each other. There is no question there are failures at the local level, but FEMA itself claims responsibility for dealing with these kinds of crises and anything this big counts as a national disaster.

The whole point of having DHS is to deal with crises of this scale.

So, unless you think newspapers like The Birmingham News, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the Augusta Chronicle, the Washington Times, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Austin American Statesman, and the Denver Post are all part of the "Blame Bush First" crowd, you have to accept that this was a major failure at the federal level

gs said...

All the partisan venom seems ominous, but my understanding is that Americans tend to overreact, and poorly, right when a crisis hits but then do what has to be done. For example, I read about minipanics in Eastern cities at the outset of the Spanish-American War. I trust conclusions will be drawn and lessons learned, especially after the news cycle moves on.


Susan, you wrote, "...I couldn't resist a dig at Boston..." If you meant "I couldn't resist a Big Dig at Boston", I can't protest: I called my state rep to complain about cost overruns and was told not to worry because the feds were paying. This is meant as wry commiseration between taxpayers, not as gloating: the whole country loses with this level of waste.

Chum said...

I think the problem for Bush personally, is that he is such a poor communicator with an unfortunate tendency to state the obvious and relate the same facts that we are all seeing on TV (NO is flooded, etc)I suspect this is what I find most annoying. That, and when he does what action is being taken he tends to stuff it up because his words don't match up with what is being reported by people in the situation.

When a leader possesses excellent public speaking skills this can go a long way to mitigating the situation.

vnjagvet said...

I posted the following comment on Ann's earlier post calling attention to Rabbi Gellman's excellent description of triage.

I addressed it to Elliott, but the last several paragraphs apply to many commenting on this post as well:

The subject of the original post was an extremely well-written and accurate description of a concept at the center of any well executed response to emergencies both great and small --- triage.

I know it is accurate because I experienced it in Vietnam more than 35 years ago. The only reason I am not participating in its execution in the Southeastern US now is because I am recuperating from minor heart surgery I received yesterday afternoon.

You seem to have assumed the Rabbi's description for the information of all was an "apology" for mistakes made in the wake of the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of this continent.

Do you really believe that the best use of time right now is indicting those who spending vast amounts of time and energy trying to cope with this unprecedented disaster? That is like beginning the 9/11 Commmission's work on 9/16. How many lives do you think that will save? How much medical treatment will that provide? How many mouths will that feed?

Please use your obvious intelligence, zeal and powers of expression to constructively add to the immediate effort to help those whose lives have been forever changed by Katrina.

Beginning tomorrow, through the Benjamin Franklin Legal Foundation, ( I will be organizing volunteers for existing community service organizations in the Atlanta and other communities throughout the country who are providing aid to Katrina's victims. I would be honored to have your support. Please contact me if you are willing to help.


Jim Rhoads (vnjagvet)

Elliott said...

I apologize for the double posting from another thread, but I'll follow Jim's lead:


Thank you for the opportunity to help. I do believe this (both help and outrage) is the best time to do this; I know that the Bush administration on the other side is certainly calculating to the last decimal point the political implications. Talking points are emerging (beyond the outright lies) and they need to be countered because we live in an age of unprecedented propaganda by our government (read "Propaganda" by Elul and you will come away haunted by his prescience). People have a short attention span and are easily manipulated so you must make your points before complacency sets in. Good examples certainly are 9/11, the Iraq War, and the tax cuts. I would have preferred that the Commission started work on 9/16 instead of a lot of work that did start happening on 9/16.

The talking points that are being used to deflect accountability are:

1. It was a natural disaster; unprecedented and unexpected in its scope. The unprecedented point might be true, but the unexpected is certainly not true. It's an insult to our intelligence. This is where I see the Rabbi's point going. He and his Priest partner are in the Bush camp and so I cannot believe that he wrote this essay in the absence of any political context.

2. The local and state officials are just, if not more, at fault. This is patently ridiculous given the resources of the federal government and the primacy of the federal government in responding to these type of disaster situations. Althouse has been flogging this talking points in other areas so I see this post and those other posts and see her writing as part of a tableau all designed to deflect accountability; all the while she insists she is a centrist.

3. We should focus on the short-term and hold the accountability to later. This is a repeat point from my introductory paragraph, but by the time you allow this administration to organize its propaganda machine you have already lost the battle. Look at Prof. Althouse's ongoing insinuations against Ms Gorelick.

In short, thank you for your respectful response to my outrage, but I will continue to argue. I don't care about Prof. Althouse or Jennifer, but maybe someone who came to this thread will confirm that the Red Cross is not being allowed to help or that the hurricane warning included the probability of massive post-hurricane flooding and then will not swallow the lies the next time, or, most importantly, in 2006 or 2008.

Ann Althouse said...

Jim, you write: "Specifically, the notion that the federal government cannot deploy assets until the Governor requests the assistance. This is most probably an accurate statement of the law. It does not, however, mean that the federal government can't do anything. I suspect they can, for example, monitor what the state and local authorities are doing. Could the FEMA head have called Bush on Sunday and said "Jesus, she is incompetent. They are not evacuating enough people. Get her to let us help." Could Bush have called Landrieu or other members of the LA delegation that the Governor would listen to to get her to request/accept federal help? At a minimum, when the levies broke on Monday night/Tuesday morning, after being advised of the consequences of such breach by the Corps of Engineers, could the President have said: "Madame governor, request that we help or I will tell the world that you will not let us help.""

That's very close to what I have thought in response to some of the comments saying that the feds absolutely couldn't act. If I haven't made that more clear, I regret it. Some people have written things like "I'm surprised that you, a law professor," etc. etc. would think the Pres. could do anything. And my reaction was pretty much what you just said, though I didn't spell it out. I think Bush should have done more, sooner, and I have said that a number of times.

Eli Blake said...

It's hard to not blame the President though, for those of us who remember how Bill Clinton worked with the leaders of South Africa, Britain and other countries to launch a quick and successful operation to sustain and eventually rescue people in a very similar situation in Mozambique in March 2000. A friend of mine was involved with that, and it was a success, pure and simple.

That was on the other side of the world.

Besides, you posted a story a few days ago regarding the President turning down foreign assistance (I even referenced it on my blog) but today it turns out that he even refused aid from Chicago.

Not that mayor Nagin or Governor Blanco couldn't have done better, but ultimately a disaster on this scale is what we were supposed to have spent all those billions of homeland security dollars preparing for (and don't even try to tell me that they would have done any better if this was a nuclear attack). As far as I can see, they have disappeared into a black hole, and except for giving the government more power to spy on you, have accomplished nada. And this is FOUR YEARS since 9/11.

John Cougar Mellencamp had a great line. He was asked to donate cash, and he said he has already donated cash for disaster relief. It is called taxes. Point was made.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Shorter Elliott: We have to jump to invidious conclusions now, because if we wait until we have the facts for an informed debate, the wrong people might win it.

And he has the gall to accuse Ann of "propaganda". Jesus.

SteveR said...

Yeah Clinton did a great job in Rwanda... sheesh! Be careful who you hold up as the example under these circumstances. The scale of this is nothing like what was boing on in Mozambique

The blame game is silly (at best) this disaster has been in the works for generations and reflects a bad local and state governmental structure, poor federal response mechanisms, not to mention generations of leaders whistling in the dark about the vulnerability of NO to withstand the inevitable.

Jennifer said...

Paul: That or he just can't stand informed debate on principle. Elliot is insisting on clinging to falsehoods that can be proved wrong in the now.

For example...

the Red Cross is not being allowed to help
As if the 40 shelters they have set up just in the state of Louisiana alone aren't "help".

And ridiculous assertions that someone should tell people that a little bit of chlorine will make toxic flood waters great stuff for babies. Particularly when said people have no chlorine or containers in which to "purify" the sludge.

Or that state and local officials have no responsibility to prevent and then deal with state and local disasters while the feds move in.

I'm too tired of his drivel to go on.

Eli Blake said...


Yes, Clinton (and the whole world) did fail in Rwanda. No question about that. But Rwanda is not a parallel for the present situation; Mozambique is.

The point of Mozambique (and it was a very similar situation, with tens of thousands of people trapped by raging and filthy floodwaters, in a country where there has been guerilla activity) is that it is possible to put together an operation involving the use of aircraft and helicopters to sustain and rescue people. On the first days of the event, it was reported that many people in New Orleans were camped out on rooftops. This was identical to Mozambique.

I just question why exactly the same kind of response couldn't have been mounted as was mounted then.

And, we are still not out of the water, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes (on the other side of Orleans parish) are still in a state of seige. Frankly, a place like Plaquemines can't be reached by road in a flood, but would be easily accessible from the sea or by air. The federal government has the resources to bring large amounts of supplies in from the sea, and state government does not.

Yes, the Governor can be blamed, but let's be honest, the scale of this was just too dang big for the state of Louisiana to handle.

And I still want to know what exactly they have been doing with all that Homeland Security money since they apparently haven't been using it to make the homeland very secure.

Eli Blake said...

And whether the political rhetoric is justified or not, it is certainly having an effect:

(due to appear tomorrow in the New York Times):

As White House Anxiety Grows, Bush Tries to Quell Political Crisis

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 - Faced with one of the worst political crises of his presidency, President Bush abruptly overhauled his September schedule on Saturday as the White House scrambled to gain control of a situation that Republicans said threatened to undermine Mr. Bush's second-term agenda and the party's long-term ambitions.

As a Liberal, my take would be that it is tragic that at a time like this, the Bush administration is apparently only changing the President's schedule because of a political calculation.

Obviously, you folks on the right have a different take on it, but certainly this is having an effect.

Jennifer said...

Eli: I wasn't familiar with the crisis you referred to, so I did some looking online.

It's hard to not blame the President though, for those of us who remember how Bill Clinton worked with the leaders of South Africa, Britain and other countries to launch a quick and successful operation to sustain and eventually rescue people in a very similar situation in Mozambique in March 2000. A friend of mine was involved with that, and it was a success, pure and simple.

Here are some quotes I found:

"Gracia Machel, former minister of education and widow of Mozambique liberation leader and first president Samora Machel, sharply criticized the West...for their slow response.

'There'll always be a question why people took so long,...Always, we have to be dying in thousands...When we are dying in thousands then they come running. It's always too late.'"

"Saying "we can do more" than the $12.8 million that USAID had already been committed to relief efforts, President Clinton on March 1 announced creation of a Department of Defense Joint Task Force that would deploy C-130 support aircraft and heavy lift helicopters to assist in search and rescue operations."

"Stung by criticism suggesting that they were slower to react to an African crisis than they would have been if a similar crisis had occurred in Europe, officials on the U.S. response team and throughout the Clinton administration argue that they reacted with amazing speed and efficiency, given the logistical demands and climatic uncertainty they faced. While a second cyclone - Eline - hit Mozambique February 22, "It was not until February 25, when a second surge of water caused the rivers and the dams to overflow, that the disaster became worse than anyone had anticipated," USAID Administrator J. Brady Anderson said."

"Government officials - and even some non-governmental organizations that have been critical of the speed of the U.S. response - agree that just about everyone was caught flat-footed by the immensity of Mozambique's flooding."

These sound remarkably like what is being said now - we don't care because they are black, we didn't act fast enough because we should have known it would get worse...

I wonder if just being confronted with the enormity of this kind of tragedy, nothing seems fast enough or good enough.

Eli Blake said...


Perhaps it is true, what you say that no response will be fast enough to satisfy everyone. However, I do remember as it was happening (and as I said, I have a friend who actually participated in it) and at the time they sure seemed to get over there very quickly. As for the widow of the President, I would mention that the rescuers essentially brushed aside the local government (many composed of corrupt officials who were primarily interested in what they personally were going to get out of it) and went right in over their heads, so there may be an ax to grind there.

Nevertheless, it seems odd that we can put together this kind of operation half a world away faster than we can put it together in a US state.

Sean said...

i am open to hera wht the federal response did wrong. peopel keep using adjectives (pathetic, bad, horrible) and throwing otu vague comments ( should have done more, better). But i have yet to see anyonr present factually what the federal govt coudl have done.

arthur mentioned aircraft carriers. they do not go into hurricanes, or hurricane areas until after a hurricane. the coast guard is already there, prepared and trained. they rescued over 5000 people in the first three days. (they are federal, so why is that ignored.)

sorry. it comes to one thing. you do not need to evacuate 100,000 people after the storm; if they were evacuated before the storm. That is an objective fact, provable and testable.
the city and state ignored a serious situation,and turned it into a post katrina crises. they did not even have medical help of any food at the suprdome! is that Bush's fault? they did not even evacuate the hospitals? bush's fault?

the federal govt should have never been in the position of needing to rescue 100,000 people. why? because its impossible to do within 3 days. something are limited by time and space, and that thing called physics. the federal govt also is responsible for other states, nto just new orleans. Thats why the local and state govt has such a big role. It prevents favoritism, and bullying from the powers in DC.

5 days! the worst disaster in history (at least one of the worst); and people are crying bloody murder because it took the federal govt more than 72 hours? are you serious?

some changes need to be made, things should be done better. thats one thing. To claim negligence and outright disregard by Bush and the federal officials is just plain wrong.

Sean said...

last comment. i want to show how many of the critics of Bush's comments are actually proof that the state and city failed.
they keep saying a disaster of this size needed the federal govt to respond. the problem is that you do not know the size of a disaster until AFTER it hits! Those with the most knowledge of the streets and places, are local officials. police who patrol those streets everyday.

thats why you evacuate! to prevent a catastrophe regardless of the size of the storm.
if someone can prove to me that the city of NO had a plan and implemented it, and the state also had a plan and implemented it. then i will be willing to blame the federal govt for deaths. the truth is probably 95% or more of the deaths in this disaster will have come in the first day of the floods and the only solutiuon would have been evacuation.

am i the only one who finds it odd that we have not heard from the NO chief of police, not one time??!!

Jennifer said...

Eli: But my point was that we didn't get it together faster in that situation.

Feb 22 the first cyclone hit.

Feb 25 the second cyclone hit, broke the dams and began the flooding.

Mar 1 we announced the creation of a task force to assist with search-and-rescue operations.

Mar 2 we actually began flying and rafting rescue operations.

Assuming 2000 wasn't a leap year, that's 5 days from the flooding until we plucked the first person from a rooftop.

The "cavalry" rolled in on the 4th day after the levees broke in New Orleans.

While I'm no logistics expert (maybe Jason from iraqnow.blogspot could help out here), I would venture to say that the only difference between deploying such an operation to Africa or to a fellow state would be the flight time.

Jennifer said...

And as Sean points out, the feds (in the guise of the Coast Guard) were carrying out search and rescue ops from day 1.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Then again, rushing to blame the state and local authorities when so few facts are known is no better than rushing to blame the federal authorities. I think it would be a good thing if the President were to publicly remind his supporters of this.

Stiles said...

It's a shame that there is so much fingerpointing going on. Right now is the time for the country to roll up its collective sleeves, tend to the needs of the refugees, and begin the work of rebuilding and repair.

While some decisions were handled well at the local, state, and federal levels, it's pretty evident to me that significant errors were also made by each level of government. At the local and state level, evacuation of the poor and infirm went badly. I doubt it would have gone well in most cities, but the vulnerability of New Orleans was well established and they should have been ready. At the federal level, FEMA was unable to meet the traditional 72 hour benchmark and post-9/11 I'd hoped for much better. Given that the scenario was pretty clearly setup on Saturday, the resources should have been leaning so far forward that they needed to be propped up with a stick.

Coordination has been spotty, which is sometimes the case with big disasters, and that is a multi-level problem. More could have been done at each level and it is denial to think otherwise. And the bigger the disaster, the more responsibility resides at the federal level to execute well.

But do we want the local, state, and federal emergency managers rebutting specific accusations of negligence and incompetence right now, or do we want them to focus exclusively on responding to the disaster? Too much blame undermines a culture of improvement, although low expectations do as well. Personally, I'd like to see higher expectations for performance with less scapegoating going around when the time arrives for lessons learned.

Ann Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Stiles: It seems likely to me that high-level Democrats and Republicans will perceive it as a good idea avoid this kind of blaming (because both sides fell short and they will look bad pointing at each other). I think we are already seeing that.

Eli Blake said...


What did the Federal Government do wrong (other than the by now well documented budget cuts to the flood control districts of the New Orleans district of the corps of engineers?)

1. You can't blame President Bush for the fact that 3000 Louisiana national guardsmen were stuck in Iraq (along with all of their amphibious vehicles) but once it became clear that the state was undermanned, the Federal Government refused at first to replace this shortage and was slow in sending the guardsmen home (many are still waiting to fly home at this time).

2. As Ann has documented in an earlier post, they actually turned down aid offered by more than twenty foreign countries (I also posted on that thread that it now comes out that President Bush declined aid from the city of Chicago as well, so it wasn't just foreign governments.)

3. They didn't do anything, especially in areas only they could get to. For example, if you look at a map you will see that Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes are completely inaccessible if New Orleans is under water, so the state could not physically get there. These two parishes took the brunt of the storm, as the eye actually made landfall here first. Hundreds are now dead in Chalmette, and area which only the federal government could have accessed.

4. After 9/11, the Federal Government was tasked with creating an emergency response team to be coordinated through the Department of Homeland Security which could be deployed anywhere in the country. They were also to train first responders to be able to handle an attack on the scale of a nuclear weapon. Obviously, billions of dollars later, these things have not happened. It is fair to ask WHY.

Eli Blake said...

Also Sean,

If you watched CNN on Monday morning, they had taped interviews of people who had wanted to evacuate but didn't have the means to do so (you can tell people to leave but if they don't have a vehicle or don't have the money for gas, then they can't get out of there). Granted this could be considered a state responsibility, but I tell you what, the state of Arizona (where I live) gave supplies a few years ago to poor Navajos to ride out a winter storm and you should have heard the howl that went up from the right about it not being a state responsibility. In fact, I don't think this is clearly defined in the law, because giving people the means to evacuate is not done.

It also didn't help that Greyhound suspended bus service in New Orleans as the terminal was full of people trying to get out on Sunday night. A lot of them were poor people without cars who were trying to follow the evacuation order. What is the state supposed to do? Shoot their way in and commandeer the busses? As of today, 'yes' would be a reasonable answer, but it wasn't on Sunday night.

gs said...

Just chiming in.

I continue to believe it's way too soon to draw conclusions. As with 9/11, I expect that it will be clear in hindsight that a New Orleans hurricane was looming for decades. Not to be callously facile by mentioning statistics during a catastrophe, but people (and societies) are not good at planning for low-risk high-impact events.

Here, the Red Cross states that its " response to Hurricane Katrina is the largest response to a single, natural disaster in the 125-year history of the organization." Not being allowed to help?

On the other hand, years ago I formed the second hand impression that FEMA fit the stereotype of a do-nothing government agency. Glenn Reynolds repeats like a mantra that 'homeland security is still a joke'. And FEMA has been transferred to the Department guessed it.

<sarcasm>Arrrgh! Who's to blame? Who's to blame!? Back and forth goes my swing-voter mind...back and forth...I need a demagogue to make it all clear to me.</sarcasm>

Jennifer said...

Eli: I assure you the infantry, armor and artillery units deployed from the LNG to Iraq have no amphibious vehicles - their Abrams, Bradleys and Howitzers would be quite useless in this type of disaster. Unless you wanted them for controlling looters, but that seems a little heavy-handed.

I am with you though, feeling for people who didn't have the means to make it out of town. I maintain they could have made it to the Superdome, giving them a better chance of survival, but that's neither here nor there any longer. According to the Mudville Gazette, where you can see the specific disaster preparedness contingency plans for New Orleans, it was absolutely laid out that the mayor would organize mass evacuations using public resources. Unfortunately, he didn't.

As you point out, Greyhound didn't help matters. They actually closed down SAT night, BEFORE the mandatory evacuation went through. I suppose their responsibility only extends to their drivers, who they say they were trying to keep safe. But it sure doesn't seem very civic-minded that they felt no compulsion to help the vehicle-less residents.

Eli Blake said...


Yes, as a matter of fact, 2000 was a leap year (an event that oddly happens every four hundred years, that a century year is a leap year).

That said, you are correct that there was a delay on the part of the west. However, as you say also, the commitment was made on March 1 and by March 2 operations were begun. So, the stuff was in place to do it and do it quickly.

Contrast that to the fact that it was known that we had a major tragedy in Louisiana (not just New Orleans) on our hands by Monday night (and NO state has the resources to completely handle the obliteration of its largest city, and certainly the White House was aware of that) but other than declaring a disaster area and flying over it, President Bush did nothing for several days. Even when he did tour on Friday, he seemed to not grasp the seriousness of the situation, cracking jokes about when he lived in Houston.

And like I said at the first, I am not defending the Governor or the mayor (and they certainly failed in not confronting violent criminals early before things deteriorated into anarchy), but when they are completely overwhelmed (as any state would be in this situation) they should expect rapid response from the feds and it wasn't forthcoming.

Jennifer said...

Eli: I thought you meant from need to start, the operations have been slower. You're right though, from commitment to follow through was faster.

But you could argue that waiting 5 days (since it was a leap year) to make the commitment gave them some extra lead time there. I don't imagine people would have been happier if Bush waited 5 days to announce willingness to help, but made it in the next day.

I forgot in my last post to mention the LNG deployed combat engineers and their ACEs. Armed bulldozers are not amphibious or useful in this situation either.

In any event, as I said before, I can't imagine anything would be fast enough when watching this kind of heart wrenching tragedy.

We'll have to agree to disagree on what exactly rapid response is.

ATMX said...

Assuming 2000 wasn't a leap year, that's 5 days from the flooding until we plucked the first person from a rooftop.

2000 was a leap year, so it was 6 days from flooding and 9 days from cyclone 1. Eli's memory obviously is faulty. Anyway, each component of the logistics chain has inherent time delay. The time to move to Africa is only part of it. And no doubt we were using resources closer to Africa based out of Europe and elsewhere to speed the mission.

And Eli, LA national guard troops were not fully utilized during much of the time after the hurricane. Your argument that they were undermanned is faulty.

3. They didn't do anything, especially in areas only they could get to. For example, if you look at a map you will see that Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes are completely inaccessible if New Orleans is under water, so the state could not physically get there.

If the state can't get there, the feds aren't going to be able to get there quickly either. They have to bring resources from elsewhere (they can't preposition close by as they could potentially lose the resources), and move it through the disaster area that coastal LA is. Moreover, they have to be told by LA that there are people that need help.

To keep people like you happy, we would probably need a fleet of 100,000 helicopters worth hundred billions of dollars to ensure a rescue response to vast swaths of the country in a couple of days.

They were also to train first responders to be able to handle an attack on the scale of a nuclear weapon.

Katrina's area of destruction is greater than the area affected by a single nuclear weapon. And if multiple nuclear weapons are involved, god help us all.
And do you really think that any emergency response to a nuclear attack would be seen as adequate and fast enough. That's why we should be focussed on trying to prevent totalitarian governments abroad from getting nukes.

The people who have been whining and trying to pin blame on the Bush administration are only making people waste energy that should be used elsewhere right now. I was amazed by how fast the finger-pointers came out, how fast the political pundits trying to tie the disaster to any and very policy of the Bush administration. They have acquited themselves poorly.

Ann Althouse said...

Eli: I never wrote that we refused aid. Where did you get that? I've seen reports that they are evaluating whether to accept certain types of nonmonetary aid.

Eli Blake said...


I had heard a commentator talking about them having amphibious vehicles. If they didn't have any, then I was wrong (although if they didn't have any then that is just one more item that the feds needed to make available, because certainly armored amphibious vehicles would be enormously helpful in this situation.)

That said, I have enjoyed this discussion. I have to go now (you are welcome to visit my blog, if you want to.) I make no bones about being a Liberal but enjoy any conversations with intelligent informed people.

Jennifer said...

Eli: I should point out that I agree with you that Bush could have LOOKED like he was doing more. Both Clinton and Reagan probably would have made people FEEL better. I don't know that they could have DONE any more.

I also think a lot of this comes down to personality. My Dad is a lot like Bush - he's very no nonsense - no dwelling on emotions, just get to work, and try to crack a joke to make people feel better. I'm used to that in a leader. If Bush had been out there crying with the mayor and governor, THAT would have terrified me. Other people are clearly going to perceive things very differently.

Jennifer said...

Eli: I didn't see your last comment. I have to go now too, but I've enjoyed the back and forth.

Sloanasaurus said...

I think once time passes people will examine of the statistics of the disaster to determine who screwed up. Being pissed about not having enough to eat at the moment is an emotion that will quickly pass. Being dead is not.

The most important statistic is the number of deaths. If it turns out that people had to wait an extra 36 hours for aid, but no siginificant amount of deaths were attributed to this wait, then the slow response will be forgotten. In contrast, if many many deaths are attributed to the delay, then heads will roll if it is determined that the rescues could have been done sooner.

I think it will turn out that most of the deaths will be from drowning in the first day after the flood occurred.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I think Bush should have done more, sooner, and I have said that a number of times.

Okay, Ann, fair enough.

Like ...

Declared a disaster early? --- Did that.

Prepositioned FEMA supplies and activated FEMA response teams? --- Did that. (It's part of the automatic process following a disaster declaration.)

Pressed for a mandatory evacuation? --- Did that, by putting personal pressure on the Governor, and by making a personal appeal on the air.

Provided more NG troops? --- Well, actually, he can't. And the Iraq War thing is specious, Louisiana didn't even activate all the NG they have.

Had Federal resources on the ground quicker? --- Actually, the Coast Guard was there before the wind had died down completely. And the other assets were hundreds or thousands of miles away --- or put out of action themselves by the storm.

In fact, let's say that again: Almost all the Federal (military, etc) assets were necessarily either several hundred miles away or put out of action by the storm.

I'll grant that there were things that he could have done for his own political standing: looked mournful, even pulled a tear or two; wagged his finger at a camera or two; flown over in a helicopter instead of a jet; started going on TV and blaming the Governor and Mayor before they started blaming him for their failings. (Given the 500 busses flooded in a parking lot in New Orleans, I thought it was sort of informative that one of the Mayor's complaints was that the Feds didn't provide busses. Gee, I wonder why busses were on his mind?)

So, you say Bush should have done more, sooner?


Eli Blake said...

OK. Dinner cooked, kids won't go to bed in a few minutes so I have a few minutes to answer unanswered queries from earlier.

Ann: That is how I interpreted your post from Sept. 2 at 5:15. He said quite clearly that he expects this country to rise up and take care of it. Besides, if he is still 'considering' or 'evaluating' offers of aid (and I know that the Venezuelan offer was out there at least by Wednesday because that is when this article is dated) then that can be considered as good as a refusal because it needed to be accepted quickly to do the most good. In fact, if they are still 'considering' or 'evaluating' the aid then that really does make the case that President Bush is moving too slow. Even if he was going to refuse it, he should have done that right away. Also, I posted on that same board today about how aid offered by the city of Chicago on Sunday was almost all refused by the Federal government.

Jennifer: I also think that Clinton or Bush Sr. or Reagan WOULD have done more. This Bush seems too focused on Iraq and a very few domestic issues (mostly reflecting the desires of the Cato Institute which involves weakening or dismantling the government rather than using it effectively) so I don't consider him to be as efficient or competent as any of his three predecessors. Now granted, I don't agree with most of Bush's priorities, so maybe being incompetent isn't always bad; but in a case like this it certainly is.

Eli Blake said...


I suggest then that you check out this article.

Considering that the President took until Friday to even acknowlege that things weren't proceeding on schedule, I guess I won't bother to point out that in an earlier post I listed several specific failings of the federal government (and just today the Sheriff of St. Bernard parish, an area that is largely still waiting for help, announced a shoot-to-kill policy to reign in anarchy there, and it is even worse in Plaquemines, a parish which you cannot get to at all right now by road, but could easily be gotten to by sea. Of course only the Federal government, not the state government has the resources to deliver massive amounts of aid by sea, so the situation in Plaquemines parish (desperate and still deteriorating at last report) is their responsibility if anything is.

Anyway, good night.

Joan said...

WaPo just put out an article that all here should find interesting. You have to read deep but you'll find this:
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

It is not clear but I believe that this request was made before the hurricane actually hit -- last weekend, not this weekend. Later, the article continues:

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."

Honestly, I can't make heads or tails out of this -- it seems like everyone is CYA.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Eli, here's your answer:

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

From the article Joan just mentioned.

Wave Maker said...

Hey! Boston is not "poorly run." Petty, insular, thin-skinned, cliquish -- absolutely. But aside from the typically crappy urban public schools (chiefly a union control issue), it's pretty well-run for its size.

The Big Dig is not the city's embarrassment -- it's the state's -- and well-deserved.

Stiles said...

Interesting article in the WSJ today that includes the following:

"Four weeks before the hurricane, Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider, of the Louisiana National Guard, told WGNO, a local ABC affiliate, that when guard members left for Iraq last October, they took a lot of needed equipment with them, including dozens of high-water vehicles, Humvees, refueling tankers and generators that would be needed in the event a major natural disaster hit the state."

"You've got combatant commanders over there who need it, they say they need it, they don't want to lose what they have and we certainly understand that," he said. "It's a matter of us educating that combatant commander [that] we need it back here as well."

Obviously the equipment is needed in Iraq as well and this isn't intended to get into the pros and cons of Iraq. Just that the LANG took more than just armor with them when the deployed overseas.

It does sound like there was a unique intersection of an intense hurricane, special circumstances, and breakdowns in decision-making, coordination, and execution at all levels.