The recent – although it’s been a never absent flap-maker since last August – resurgence of calumny, finger-pointing, and name-calling connected to the Katrina-thing has been mistakenly seized upon by democrats and other liberals as a vehicle to further damage the presidency. Much has been made of the “tapes” that have purportedly convicted the president of negligence even to the point of not contacting God and having Him stop the hurricane, in the first place; however, the tapes have simply verified that the president was aware from the get-go, even though he was on vacation, of what was happening in the hurricane area. More to the point, besides the fact that the tapes clearly have him on the record as being consistently briefed, he could do no more than anyone else, namely, plainly tell the people to “get out of Dodge,” wait and see what happened, and then react/respond.
The tapes are so damaging to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Blanco, both being stalwart democrats, that the last thing the liberal media and the party hacks should want to do is even bring up the subject of Katrina. Nagin either completely misunderstood the head honcho of the Weather Service when he was told by that worthy to get his people out of the city (he had plenty of time), or he was so incompetent that he either didn’t know the evacuation plan (if there actually was one) or simply lacked whatever it took to get action connected with the plan. Plainly, he had not seen to the provisioning of the Dome, meaning that the people stranded there had nothing because he had provided nothing for them.
Actually, with respect to Nagin and the governor, who simply couldn’t or wouldn’t make up her mind for a crucial day with respect to the allowing of federal help (causing the obvious consequences), it seems apparent that neither knew the role FEMA was designed to play, or just didn’t make any effort to cooperate. As most everyone knows, the local and state establishments are responsible for the first response to any catastrophe, with FEMA then joining in the effort to handle it. In the case of Katrina, the response, when it actually mattered, i.e., early in the matter, was non-existent. This left FEMA with the responsibility of being the first responder, which it obviously was not either empowered or physically equipped to handle. This shows up most clearly in the lack of evacuation for which the mayor, especially, was responsible, with respect to New Orleans, and the governor, with respect to all areas.
The easiest way to see what went wrong is simply to make a comparison with the actions taken by Nagin and Blanco to those taken by Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the first responders of Florida communities with respect to the myriad hurricanes that have lashed Florida. The people on the ground took their responsibilities seriously, knew what they were supposed to do, and went about the business of handling the situations. By contrast, Nagin and Blanco didn’t seem to have a clue, except that when in doubt they should criticize the federal government, no matter how many people it has saved from deaths that could have been avoided without placing other lives in jeopardy by simply carrying out the proper and assigned procedures.
Look at the difference(s) between the actions of Mississippi Governor Barbour and those (inactions) of Nagin and Blanco. Barbour’s position seems to be that, with the government’s help, those adversely affected in his state will forgo the whining and just get things back together. Though it didn’t affect as many people in Mississippi as in New Orleans, Katrina created a physical devastation just as bad as that of New Orleans, with the exception that the waters receded more rapidly. A house lost in New Orleans is no more a calamity than a house lost anywhere else.
Very soon after the devastation of Katrina came the warnings relative to another terrible hurricane – Rita. Even though there was considerable disruption as a result, the folks in and around Houston saw to the evacuation with a vengeance. There was inconvenience, of course, but the saving of lives is what mattered in Texas, and this philosophy paid off. Sadly, Houston is now being somewhat ravaged because of its huge intake of citizens who finally fled New Orleans, but, with the help of FEMA, it is facing the challenge of evacuees who will become permanent residents, along with all the problems concerning such things as public safety, schools, welfare, etc.
Ironically, the knight in shining armor in all this mess turns out to be the much maligned former FEMA chairman Michael Brown. I watched on C-Span some of the House hearings (totally boycotted by democrats on the committee) as the republicans attempted to take Brown to the woodshed, but now have egg on their respective faces in light of the recent developments, not to mention the Senate hearings, some of which I watched. Though with a checkered past, Mr. Brown actually did well during the Katrina incident, just as he had done for more than two years while hurricanes absolutely devastated Florida and other places. Bush was right when he congratulated Brown and sort of wimpy when he forced his resignation.
More to the point and certainly within the thinking of the president, no one in his/her wildest imagination or worst nightmares could have foreseen what happened in New Orleans. Nothing like that had ever happened before, and certainly nothing as catastrophic to a gaggle of local and state officials so unprepared as to be, for all practical purposes, criminally negligent. Though fraud and waste have taken place – as is the case in every catastrophe, along with the constant grumbling – where could one hope to see a nation take care of its own like this one has, with respect to Katrina? Rent is still being paid for evacuees even at gouging prices. Trailer homes have been provided, even where other folks have demonstrated they’re not welcome, even in New Orleans. Outlays of cash have been made, often unfortunately as well documented, to people who have wasted it. All the entitlements, from food stamps to medical care, have been provided. School systems have responded to what actually are crises for them. The list goes on and on.
The most outrageous claims that have been made, however, have been whined by politicians who by some unreasonable stretch of the imagination have tried to prove that the nation, ostensibly because it couldn’t handle Katrina, is not capable of protecting against terrorist attacks…this, even in the sure knowledge that the nation has not suffered another attack in the 4.5 years since 9/11. These hacks prove that they could each design a college course labeled “Wishy Washy 101.” The only requirement for designing the course – stupidity!