Friday, September 02, 2005

What Bush Didn't Say

President Bush made a comment that the results of the efforts at relief from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina were "unacceptable." And he would be right. The response, such as it is has really done very little, and the conditions in New Orleans are squalid. But I think it is just as important that we understand whose efforts the President was discussing.

The locals are the first responders. They were on 9/11, and they remained the backbone of New York stability. And disaster relief is meant to be federally financed and locally administered (the archaic presumption being that the locals know their own town better than Washington). Bush is disappointed in their inexcusable lack of preparation, despite their knowledge of their precarious geological situation.

To give a flavor for what's going on on the ground in New Orleans, here is a quote from the increasingly helpless mayor of the Big Easy, C. Ray Nagin, referring to what he felt was a poor response from FEMA:

"Get off your asses and let's do something," the mayor told WWL-AM Thursday night in a rambling interview in which he cursed, yelled and ultimately burst into tears. At one point he said: "Excuse my French everybody in America but I am pissed.
This is not leadership. Nagin was planning on an instantaneous federal response and bail out all along.

My wife made a comment that about summed up the problem, asking if New Orleans had anyone who could step up like Rudy Giuliani and actually...well...lead. Nagin has proven himself to be useless in a crisis. And before anyone accuses me of politicizing the disaster, I know nothing about the guy, and care not whether he gets reelected. But the face of a leader can't be a shrill screaming fool who communicates powerlessness and hopelessness (and for that matter I've never seen his face, which is unusual for someone trying to bail his city out of a disaster).

And while nobody could call Bush's immediate response to the hurricane "overwhelming", it is not very heartening that the local and state governments had zero plan before this disaster which was completely predictable. Which is even more inexcusable when the lack of planning they had last year fohurricanene Ivan proved to be pointless. Same characters, same plan, they got lucky then. So they again subjected the same people to the same proven worthless plan in the face of a very real anforeseeablele threat. With hideous consequences.

So, no--nobody did a decent job with this, the Feds included in handling the aftermath of this hurricane. But handling of this problem in the years before this, even insofar as evacuation is concerned, was a failure of the local authority. And that is equally unacceptable.

ADDENDUM

As usual, the Washington Times has a decent perspective on this stupidity. And in all fairness, the President should remember that just because he won the election doesn't mean that he can take his time. Leadership is also about being there.

But then check this which I found on Drudge, whose posted comment was "WHY DIDN'T YOU DEPLOY THE BUSES DURING THE MANDATORY EVACUATION, MAYOR?"

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