The Blame Game Versus the Facts
Here's what appears to be an excellent post, via Hugh Hewitt which has compiled contemporaneously recorded news reports on the days before the hurricane, the event itself, and its aftermath. It is worth the entire read.
Facts are most revealing when compared to rhetoric and emotional accusations. New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin's now infamous on-air radio collapse where he blamed everyone but himself for a failed response to the aftermath of the hurricane, after the feds were already moving. The end of the timeline links to this post from CNN which includes a transcript of a conversation with Nagin and Soledad O'Brien where Nagin states that Governor Blanco wanted 24 hours to consider Bush's offer while we watched the refugees of New Orleans suffer. Nagin also tacitly admits that he had a plan that was proven not to work.
My observation would be that the locals had no real plan, and from the start of the timeline, expected the feds to come flying in to the rescue before the hurricane winds died down to prevent the humanitarian disaster that took place. But without knowledge of the city's needs as would be provided by the local government, and with the Governor delaying federal aid as a result of personal turf concerns when people were dying, the feds could only do so much.
Sure, the feds were not perfect, and there is no disputing that. But we have local governments for a reason, and they are expected to show leadership in times of trouble, not to punt. If you have any question as to how it is supposed to work, review the acts of Rudy Giuliani after 9/11--a local guy who put the feds to work for his city in a time of disaster.
The thing that stinks the most about this is that the people being blamed are the people delivering the real help. The people complaining are those who perhaps could have prevented much of this chaos in the first place.
Hugh has a great post which discusses more blame (this time of Condi Rice) and includes various questions which focus on the notion of federalism--the notion that the greatest powers are reserved to the state and local governments. A President can offer but cannot force help on a state that refuses it.
I'm wondering whether (and feel rather certain that) things would be different if the Louisiana Governor's race had turned out differently. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) who very narrowly lost that race as a result of last-minute attack ads that were aired just three days before the election, has been on the scene and has displayed a good deal of leadership and strength in a time when it is sparse among Louisiana officials. He was secretary of the State of Louisiana's Department of Health and Human Services, and would likely have managed the disaster in an effective way.
But to quote Don Rumsfeld, Louisiana and New Orleans had to go into the disaster with the Governor and Mayor they had. There are consequences to us for the people we elect locally as well.