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Tons Of Relief Aid at the Superdome Before the Storm???

An interesting tidbit buried in story I blogged below...

Even so, he said relief crews delivered seven trailers filled with water and ready-to-eat meals to the Superdome before the storm hit on Aug. 29, along with another seven trailers on Aug. 30.

HUH?

I assume he means semi trailers and not U-haul trailers. At a (conservative) 40,000 pounds of cargo per trailer that is 560,000 pound of food and water.

The number of people in the Dome was up for debate, but even if you take the high number of 40,000 that is 14 pounds of food and water per person. 14 pounds of supplies is not near as much as you would think; water is heavy. But from what the news is telling us, it does not seem like they had this many supplies on hand.

Is anyone in the big media listening? I'd like to know more about this.


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Comments (37)

No, the big media aren't li... (Below threshold)

No, the big media aren't listening.

Only FOX has covered the Red Cross being denied by Governor Blanco the right to bring food and water to the thousands and thousands stranded in the unflooded parts of New Orleans.

But, it's right there on the Red Cross website:

http://www.redcross.org/faq/0,1096,0_682_4524,00.html

how you make payment?... (Below threshold)
ANIRUDDHA BANERJEE:

how you make payment?

Aniruddha Banerjee, click o... (Below threshold)

Aniruddha Banerjee, click on the American Red Cross "DONATE NOW" button in the bottom, or visit
USA Freedom Corps

Hmmm.Considering t... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Considering that FEMA is required to coordinate with both the state and local authorities, and that both the state and local authorities are/were completely buggered, could this be why FEMA had so much trouble? That FEMA, or elements of FEMA, were getting conflicting information and requests?

If the State Police are turning away the American Red Cross, under the orders of the LA Homeland Security Dept., then there wouldn't be any reason for that self-same dept to inform FEMA of the urgent necessity for food, water and medical attention at both the Superdome and the Convention Center. Or to request it either as FEMA is required to respond to requests and priorities set by state and local authorities.

So perhaps this whole cock-up is due to a staggering level of incompetence at the state and local governments *and* a case of one bureaucracy giving another one the run-around.

To all you Bush/FEMA basher... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

To all you Bush/FEMA bashers:

What exactly did FEMA do that they shouldn't have done? On what day was this info known?

What exactly didn't FEMA do that they should have done? On what day was this info known?


(you can ask the same questions about the local gov't and the state gov't)

Les,There are repo... (Below threshold)
andrew:

Les,

There are reports that FEMA turned away the Red Cross on their own, along with reports that FEMA also turned away multiple caravans of private sector charity (e.g. Walmart-sponsored truckfuls of water).

Hard to say which of these reports are true, but I wouldn't count on FEMA's side of the story.

Michael Brown claimed (along with the president) that "no one could have foreseen" the breaking of the levees. That's simply false.

Michael Brown didn't know there were thousands of people at the convention center until he was informed by CNN.

There were fatal breakdowns of communication and hierarchy, and it's ridiculous. FEMA sent 1,400 trained firefighters to a hotel ballroom in Atlanta to learn about "community relations" and "sexual harassment" while people on the ground still needed help, and the extent of "community relations" training was the memorization of a FEMA hotline number which, when called, does not work.

Why does everyone in the country feel the need to cram the truth within a partisan framework? I think it's easy to pretend that only half the people in charge screwed up, to fantasize that "your half" of the government is completely in control. My conservative leaders would never be incompetent, it's only the liberals!

This is a tragedy which should cross all party lines. I'm a moderate, I have no inherent problem with conservative & liberal principles and values, I understand the rationale for each. There are thoughtful, good, competent people everywhere on the political spectrum, and there are idiot hacks everywhere. There are idiot hack liberals and there are idiot hack conservatives.

In my opinion- our president and our federal government did not behave competently.

Here's my question to all of you who rush to point out how well-done this job was, how biased the mainstream media is, how much unjust influence the rantings of crazy left-wingers have over that media (those crazy left-wingers complain just as often about the unjust airtime given to crazy right-wingers, by the way):

What would it take for you to be upset with the federal government response and the president's response? How much worse would it have to get? At what point would you cease to summon explanations and apologies?

This is not a politically motivated question, I'm not trying to persuade anyone to change their mind, I'm asking out of true curiosity.

Andrew -If the Red... (Below threshold)

Andrew -

If the Red Cross is saying it was the state government FEMA Folks, why would you be disinclined to believe them?

What would it take to get me critical of FEMA? It's simple. No response by the government. Them basically going - "Tough shit, you're on your own" to the whole area.

You're looking at a 90,000 square MILE area that was devastated by the hurricane. That's a square 300 miles long by 300 miles wide. And there were a HELL of a lot of people in that area, a hell of a lot of towns, a hell of a lot of hospitals and roads and airports and the like.

That's a lot of ground to cover, and the resources for aid aren't anywhere near infinite. Logistically, this was an amazing sucess. Don't think so? You try getting a 50 semi convoy into an area that has no workable rail lines, no working airports, and roads that are damn iffy if not impassible. Work your way in, then tell me they were slow.

Did shit happen? Sure it did. Did the worst shit happen in New Orleans? It's hard to tell. If you judge by the media coverage, damn near the only place hit was the Superdome and some of New Orleans. Guess it goes to show "If it bleeds, it leads"... and if you want to get attention, you go where the reporters are, because they're not going to be going where the news is. Do we have the complete story? I don't think so, by a long shot.

BTW, what they foresaw was water coming OVER the levees - not the levees breaking. There's a big difference between the two - mainly that it's a lot easier to pump out a whole lot of water that's slopped over a levee than it is to repair a levee and then pump out the city.

J.

I know it is off topic for ... (Below threshold)

I know it is off topic for this post, but it definitely needs to be aired (I know Paul, you would be VERY interested in this)

The Orleans District levee board was a failure.

Michael Brown claimed (... (Below threshold)

Michael Brown claimed (along with the president) that "no one could have foreseen" the breaking of the levees. That's simply false.

Repeated from the last post where this LIE was repeated: NYT - "Government saw flood risk, not levee failure."

Local, state and federal officials, for example, have cooperated on disaster planning. In 2000, they studied the impact of a fictional “Hurricane Zebra”; last year they drilled with “Hurricane Pam.”

Neither exercise expected the levees to fail.

(…)

Army Corps personnel, in charge of maintaining the levees in New Orleans, started to secure the locks, floodgates and other equipment, said Greg Breerwood, deputy district engineer for project management at the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We knew if it was going to be a Category 5, some levees and some flood walls would be overtopped,” he said. “We never did think they would actually be breached.” The uncertainty of the storm’s course affected Pentagon planning.

How about "Tons of Money Al... (Below threshold)

How about "Tons of Money Allotted to New Orleans Before the Storm"?

Money Flowed to Questionable Projects

Yes, but how is New Orleans... (Below threshold)
capitano:

Yes, but how is New Orleans like Iraq (as opposed to Vietnam) you ask?

Saddam didn't care if his country suffered under the UN sanctions in spite of Oil for Food revenue, because he could blame the U.S. for the people's suffering. Saddam siphoned off money for palaces and cut electricity and basic services to various parts of Iraq to punish and control the citizenry. He then cynically enlisted his pals in the UN to push for lifting sanctions to ease the suffering of his people.

The local and state Democrats in Louisiana:

1. siphon off Federal money to relatives and cronies meant for upgrading flood control.

2. negligently fail to follow their own policies for evacuation or heed advice of the President.

3. prevent available Red Cross aid from reaching the Superdome and Convention Center thereby increasing the suffering of its citizens.

4. refuse to concede authority for evacuation and rebuilding to the Federal Government.

4. with the help of Congressional Democrats and their pals in the media, cynically blame the death and destruction on the Federal Government.

There are reports that F... (Below threshold)
Martin A Knight:

There are reports that FEMA turned away the Red Cross on their own, along with reports that FEMA also turned away multiple caravans of private sector charity (e.g. Walmart-sponsored truckfuls of water).

When I checked this story, it seemed very incomplete to me. It is not even certain that it is true. But what I know about it is this: this happened after the Hurricane had passed and furthermore it was pointed out that with the vast majority of the roads underwater, bridges strong enough to withstand the weight of these trucks washed away or unsound, it would have been criminally negligent to have let them go in.

Michael Brown claimed (along with the president) that "no one could have foreseen" the breaking of the levees. That's simply false.

Then you are either ignorant or a liar. Not that I am calling into doubt your claims of being a "centrist", but the Left has been repeating this canard since they thought they could score points on this. There is a serious difference between the levees being overtopped by the floodwaters and the levees breaking. Do you have even a modicum of knowledge when it comes to engineering at all? It was well-known that the former would happen since Katrina was a Category 4 Hurricane and the levees were Category 3 rated. The latter was simply not foreseen.

Michael Brown didn't know there were thousands of people at the convention center until he was informed by CNN.

Maybe that shows that he was not informed by the local authorities, especially since it was a spur of the moment decision by city officials after the Hurricane. But it does definitely show that he was not watching television. Maybe he was busy doing something else far more important. Don't forget that after the Hurricane hit on Monday morning, news reports all over the nation, much to everyone's relief, stated that Katrina had largely spared New Orleans. This is from the New York Times (August 30): "Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast with devastating force at daybreak on Monday, sparing New Orleans the catastrophic hit that had been feared but inundating parts of the city and heaping damage on neighboring Mississippi, where it killed dozens, ripped away roofs and left coastal roads impassable."

In otherwords, in the aftermath of the Hurricane and prior to the Lake Pontchartrain levee breaking, the worst damage was done to the state of Mississippi, entire towns were wiped off the face of the Earth and scores of people killed, injured or left in dire straits. The disaster area was the size of England. Do you have any idea as to the complexity of the task that had befallen FEMA? No terrorist could have done this much damage over such a wide area. FEMA's original area of the most concern was Mississippi, i.e. Biloxi, Waveland, etc. and most of the resources were geared in that direction. But then the levees broke apart and an entire lake poured itself into the city. I'll get back to this in a second.

In my opinion- our president and our federal government did not behave competently ... What would it take for you to be upset with the federal government response and the president's response? How much worse would it have to get? At what point would you cease to summon explanations and apologies?

Well, in my opinion, and with all due respect, your posts over the past few hours just shows that you're not anywhere near as well informed as you seem to think you are. Not once in any of your rants about how A and B "failed" have you even hinted at the key factor in evaluating the response to this crisis. Logistics. Simply put, when the bridges, roads, raillines and the waterways had been damaged by Katrina, how can you get the resources needed from point X to Y? Have you spent even a tenth of the time you have used to fulminate against the Feds contemplating this particular obstacle?

When there are no ways in and out other than by air (helicopters that cannot land), and a lake is emptying itself into a city and the entire law and order institutions of that same city has completely broken down ... not to mention the fact that there is an additional 90,000 square kilometers of damage also waiting to be attended to, it is extremely rich for you to sit down and self-righteously criticize without even devoting a single word to the logistics of the operation that have to be sorted out before the Feds can do anything useful. Simply getting prepared and gathering the information necessary takes time and it is extremely important lest we end up with a "READY! FIRE! AIM!" situation.

The Feds were conducting rescue operations less than 24 hours after the Hurricane made landfall and managed to get thousands of more troops and resources into the area within mere hours once the levees broke and the situation became more desperate. If you had any knowledge of logistics, you'd realize that, if anything, the Feds did an excellent job of pre-positioning and could not have made it any faster unless they had deployed while the Hurricane was still blowing ... which I believe, even you would think was a bad idea.

And this is even more impressive when you realize that the local authorities (both State and Parrish) simply collapsed. Realize that FEMA is meant to plug into the plans/efforts made by the local authorities. Why? Because the local authorities know their area best and are explicitly charged with being the first responders. It is simply not possible for FEMA to do otherwise. A Hurricane striking New York and another striking Norfolk would require responses particular to that area because the effect would not be the same.

So please, step away from the keyboard, do a little studying, take a deep breath and then start casting aspersions when you know what you're talking about.

One other little thing... a... (Below threshold)

One other little thing... apparently the meme is spreading that it wasn't the state department of homeland security that turned them back, because the state doesn't HAVE a department or office of Homeland Security.

They're wrong. Take a look. Until something else comes along, this looks a lot like the "Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness" to me...

Just something else to throw into the fray...

And what Martin A. Knight's saying about the logistics involved is true. Logistics response is the key to a disaster like this - and there wasn't much of any way to get the stuff there faster short of airdrops... and every place they could drop in the local area was flooded.

JLawson

There are reports that F... (Below threshold)

There are reports that FEMA turned away the Red Cross on their own, along with reports that FEMA also turned away multiple caravans of private sector charity (e.g. Walmart-sponsored truckfuls of water).

FEMA did not turn away the Red Cross, they SENT the Red Cross.

The issue of the Walmart trucks has been resolved - they were sent somewhere other than where they were originally going, where the need was greater.

Michael Brown claimed (along with the president) that "no one could have foreseen" the breaking of the levees. That's simply false.

OK, Michael Brown doesn't make a good impression at press conferences. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate that about a 1.

Michael Brown didn't know there were thousands of people at the convention center until he was informed by CNN.

Assuming for the sake of argument that that's a correct statement (I know he said something to that effect), are you assuming it was Michael Brown's job to know they were there? Expecting the director of FEMA, whose job is to procure resources requested by the states and coordinate the nationwide effort, to know the location of every group of refugees seems like asking a lot. Why was that particular group of people so much more important than the thousands of others spread across three states? Because they were on TV? The director of FEMA presumably does not direct relief efforts based on watching CNN. Plenty of people who'd been living on their roof for two days were in much worse shape. Brown had to take care of all of them.

It seems more likely to me that somebody was supposed to tell him (or rather tell FEMA) where the people were. The convention center was not a planned refuge - people just went there. Then we need to know who that was, and whether they did in fact tell FEMA, and when. Simply asserting that it was Brown's fault assumes facts not in evidence. I won't rule out the possibility it may have been, but the only evidence presented so far boils down to: "Brown was supposed to know everything that was happening everywhere, at every moment, and regardless of whether the mechanisms for providing him with that knowledge fulfilled their own responsibilities."

There were fatal breakdowns of communication and hierarchy, and it's ridiculous.

OK, you offer one example of that below, although it's unclear whether it qualifies as "fatal".

Is it your position that NOT A SINGLE failure of communication and hierarchy is the only acceptable standard when moving hundreds of thousands of people and tons of supplies across a devastated area the size of Great Britain in the matter of a few days, and that anything short of that is self-evident incompetence?

Otherwise, it seems to me we need more information to determine whether the level of SNAFU's was "ridiculous" or inevitable. I don't rule out the possibility that FEMA may have screwed the pooch seriously, although I see no evidence for that whatsoever, and on the contrary, what they've managed to do seems to me like an awe-inspiring response to a problem many times bigger than any disaster that we've ever had to deal with.

Should we investigate what didn't work? Obviously. But let's not go around lobbing vague, unspecific accusations that come down to: "there was a big problem (Katrina) that didn't go away after one day, so somebody must be incompetent".

FEMA sent 1,400 trained firefighters to a hotel ballroom in Atlanta to learn about "community relations" and "sexual harassment" while people on the ground still needed help, and the extent of "community relations" training was the memorization of a FEMA hotline number which, when called, does not work.

So now having more resources than are needed is a sin too? Only perfection will do? This is exactly the sort of problem that is inevitable when scrambling to bring people in from all over the country and send them somewhere they can do their job. There is no point in sending fire-fighters where they're not needed, or where there isn't the logistical support to back them up. Fine, when the dust has settled, let's see why this happened. But I reject the assumption that it is prima facie evidence of a massive failure. If these guys were the only firemen sent to respond, and they ended up handing out fliers, that is one thing. If they brought in 100 teams and only ended up using 99 though, that's another. Again, let's deal with facts and not extrapolate wildly.

Why does everyone in the country feel the need to cram the truth within a partisan framework? I think it's easy to pretend that only half the people in charge screwed up, to fantasize that "your half" of the government is completely in control. My conservative leaders would never be incompetent, it's only the liberals!

Let's recall a little recent history here, shall we? By the end of last week, the MSM and the Democrats were throwing out completely unsubstantiated charges, blaming the Administration of genocidal murder and criminal incompetence, and portraying these slanders as indisputable fact.

Since then, we have learned a lot of additional information, and seen the situation on the ground stabilize and greatly improve, as a result of a massive effort set in motion even before the storm hit. I would have been perfectly willing (and still am) to drop this whole fingerpointing accusation game, which neither we (conservatives) nor the Feds started, or willingly participated in.

I accept that the locals had many problems to deal with. So I think we should wait for the facts to come out, as they eventually will, before accusing them of malfeasance. But from what we know today, there is a close causal connection between multiple very specific, serious problems and the in-state response. The only reason I'm interested in discussing them now is that they strongly refute the false and irresponsible charges made against the Administration.

What would it take for you to be upset with the federal government response and the president's response? How much worse would it have to get? At what point would you cease to summon explanations and apologies?

This is a fair question, and the answer may surprise you.

The answer is evidence of specific, serious mistakes which significantly increased the loss of life and suffering.

That might include:

Failing to provide adequate provisions for large numbers of evacuees over a long period of time.

Failing to make every resource requested by the state authorities available to them as quickly as possible.

Failure to commit needed resources due to political considerations.

Massive inefficiency and waste, such that needed and available resources were squandered when they should have been put to good use.

I'm sure there are many other things that could make me upset.

I'm sorry, but stumbling at a press conference doesn't qualify. Nor does making one team of fire-fighters hand out leaflets outrage me to the point that I'll call for peoples' heads before I know more about why they were tasked to do that instead of something else.

I would be overjoyed if this whole, counter-productive argument would go away, but as long as the MSM and Democrats are making reckless, unsupported charges, we have to push back with the facts.

The state Emergency Managem... (Below threshold)
lyndi:

The state Emergency Management folks turned the Red Cross away, feds were not a part of that. Remember, the mayor told people to leave the city and if they couldn't, then the Superdome would be a shelter of last resort. He told them to bring their own food and water, and blankets, because nothing would be provided. They did not want people there very long, they knew it would not handle the hurricane well, so they wanted the place to be completely unattractive to people. In a recent hurricane (Ivan or Georges), the same violence and discomfort happened at the Superdome and it was well known throughout the state and local emergency folks. They probably expected what would happen with Katrina. (The media didn't because it wasn't covered last time 24/7.)

Hence, some idiots at the state and local level decided not to supply the place to make it attractive to people looking for shelter. I have read that the Guard or FEMA brought in as little as three truckloads or as much as seven truckloads of food and water, but no one can confirm it got to people there.

The more info that comes out shows the state and city to be completely corrupt. The mayor and governor don't like each other, the Huey Long politicos don't like Nagin because he's not part of the machine, the Levee Board squandered millions of dollars on silly projects and worse, and the city had a lame evacuation plan and seemingly no desire to implement it.

The governor was not in communication with the mayor's office, and neither seemed too interested in communicating with the White House until it was too late to help and just in time to start blaming them. FEMA didn't know where all the shelters were. The governor's office probably didn't either. The city's philosphy was - get out because we won't take care of you if you stay. Doesn't get harsher than that.

Here's a first person accou... (Below threshold)
Fiona:

Here's a first person account: ESCAPE FROM SUPERDOME
I would estimate that there were 10,000 people inside the Dome by the time the hurricane was supposed to hit Monday morning. It was after the flooding began that "more and more people rescued from around town poured in to the Dome."

Someone else who works in a stadium elsewhere had suggested that the Superdome should have been stocked for the upcoming football season. Stadiums project attendance and stock accordingly. The trailers would have been augmenting supplies already on hand.

And, another first person account of events at the Convention Center can be found here: Manatee sheriff's detective witnessed horrors of New Orleans convention center. It was on Wednesday when events tooks decided turn to the worst.

"...there wasn't much of an... (Below threshold)
Jack:

"...there wasn't much of any way to get the stuff there faster short of airdrops... and every place they could drop in the local area was flooded."

I'm sorry, but if CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOXNEWS could get in there, so could buses and trucks. not to mention the fact that there's a huge flat area where helicopters can land.

Evenutally the trucks and buses and helicopters got in there just fine. Before the water even started to recede. So the problem wasn't that they couldn't get in. The problem is that no one told them to go in.

And yes, you would want to rescue 40,000 people from one place before going for rooftops with one and two people. It's a more efficient use of your resources, you can rescue more people per hour and per tank of gasoline when they are all in one place.

"...What exactly did FEMA d... (Below threshold)
Jack:

"...What exactly did FEMA do that they shouldn't have done? On what day was this info known?"

FEMA should have sent much more urgent requests for resources up the chain to Dept of Homeland Security and to the Military. In advance - as soon as the storm hit category 4.

FEMA should have COOPERATED with local and state officials instead of insisting on taking over. This was an uneccessary, time-wasting attempt at a power grab.

FEMA should have completed their hurricane/levee response plan BEFORE hurricane season began. According to Chertoff, it wasn't finished yet.

FEMA should have spent a larger share of its resources on making realistic and helpful plans. Instead of helping people, many resources at FEMA go toward figuring out how to CONTROL people. Hopefully some news agencies will stumble on this while doing their storm stories.

Finally, FEMA should have focussed on solving the most important, number one problem in disaster management. This was clearly identified in the aftermath of 911. This is the one thing they could do that would help everyone! What is it? COMMUNICATION. The first thing FEMA should have done is send trucks equipped with solar powered communication towers to set up on those elevated highways.

But FEMA seems much more interested in police-state tactical training than in empowering people to save themselves.

FEMA should have had cable ... (Below threshold)
Jack:

FEMA should have had cable tv at the office so they would know what is happening.

FEMA should NOT have lied and spun. When Brown said FEMA didn't learn of the Convention Center until Thursday, he lost all credibility instantly. The entire country had been watching it on television since Tuesday.

Andrew,As stated e... (Below threshold)
Robert Modean:

Andrew,

As stated earlier FEMA did not turn away the Red Cross, the Lousiana State Department of Homeland Security did because they wanted to encourage people to evacuate the city.

With regard to the thousands of people at the convention center, there's a reason Brown was unaware of them until he was informed by CNN, it wasn't an approved storm shelter. The Convention Center, like the Superdome, had been used previously for Hurricane Ivan but it wasn't designated as one this time.

Refugees began filtering in because it had been used previously, and hotels sent guests there under the impression that it was being used as a shelter. Then to make matters worse the refugees were told that FEMA would send buses to take them from the city. Of course Brown and Ebbert weren't aware that there were refugees there, and since FEMA coordinated with the locals, neither was Brown.

To state that it's ridiculous that there were breakdowns in communication and hierarchy simply underscores to me that you have absolutely no idea of what you're talking about. Communications broke down within the city because the police radio transmitter had no back-up power supply, that's a local responsibility BTW, and the Mayor and his DHS-EOP had no fallback plan like using runners or CBs to provide continuity in communications. That's not FEMA's fault.

With regard to the 1,400 trained firefighters, that's a travesty and I'd like to know why they are their too. I agree that this is tragedy that cuts across party lines - Nagin, Ebbert, Blanco, Brown - there's plenty of incompetence on both sides. The problem I have is that everyone who talks about this "tragedy" wants to ignore the criminal incompetents at the State and Local level and just pile it all on FEMA. Let's not kid ourselves - there are only two reasons you choose that line of attack: First, you don't know what FEMA is or how it works, Second, it's a nice fat club to beat the President with. I'm guessing you fall into the latter category.

In either case, since you seen to think that FEMA has been absolutely horrible in all this let me just ask a standing question I ask all Bush-Bashers:

This was a three state disaster, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Mobile suffered the most severe flooding it's seen in 90 years, and had flood waters 11 feet deep downtown. Mississippi was hit directly by Katrina and the storm surge went nearly 6 miles inland scouring the coast, destroying an estimated 90% of the buildings in Biloxi, Gulfport and the surrounding area. The barrier islands, St. Bernard, St. Charles, Metaries, Lafourche, and Plaquemines parishes suffered every bit as badly as Jefferson and Orleans but they've had none of their problems.

We've heard nothing from those other areas with regards to problems with FEMA or getting relief to people. Why would that be? The obvious answer, IMO, is that the Local leadership in those areas actually followed the damn EOP for their areas. Blanco, Nagin, Ebbert and all the parish officials were fully cognizant of the EOP plan for SE Louisiana, Nagin and Ebert just decided not to implement it, but I'm sure you can explain to me how that's FEMA's fault too.

How many lives, how much suffering, could have been saved if Ebbert and Naggin had actually followed their own damn Emergency Operations Plan?

Meanwhile, never let it be said that Democrats missed an opportunity to politicize this disaster and exploit the dead in a ghoulish manner, by using it to attack the President and raise money for themselves at the same time. Heck, I don't question their patriotism - their decency, their morality, their sense of perspective? HELL YES, just not their patriotism.

"To all you Bush/FEMA bashe... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"To all you Bush/FEMA bashers:

What exactly did FEMA do that they shouldn't have done?"

I asked that because all the finger-pointing in the MSM (where most Americans still get their news) in the first week was exclusivly against the Feds and Bush. Why would you start with the third line of defence instead of the first (local) and second (state)? Politics, that's why. If the locals had followed their own plan and gotten more people out of below-sea-level New Orleans, the problem would have been lessened. That one particular failure spawned a catastrophic multitude of other problems now.

"On what day was this info known?"

I asked this because the Fed-bashing started even before FEMA was supposed to be there in force. They tell everyone to expect 3 or 4 days of local help only. The Fed-bashing began well before this.

"(you can ask the same questions about the local gov't and the state gov't)"

I asked this because the Bush/FEMA bashers didn't in that first week. And mostly still don't. It's only been the Blogosphere that has been refuting the political memes started by the anti-Bush crowd.

I don't think it was right to start finger pointing so soon while people are still in dire straits. But you can only take so much one-way bashing. Then you have to push back and refute the misrepresentions.

"...The problem I have is t... (Below threshold)
Jack:

"...The problem I have is that everyone who talks about this "tragedy" wants to ignore the criminal incompetents at the State and Local level and just pile it all on FEMA."

The reason the focus is on FEMA is because FEMA affects us all. When there is a disaster in my area I am not going to care about the Louisiana Governor or the New Orleans mayor. I am going to care about my local mayor, Governor, and FEMA.

All of us pay tax dollars for FEMA and DHS. Billions and billions of tax dollars. All of us may need them. We expect them to be better than this. We demand that they improve.

In democratic republic, the government reflects the will of the people. The people are making it clear that they expect better.

Whether you are a Democrat or Republican you want the country to be strong. You want sensible leaders with vision and integrity. This is most definitely not about Bush bashing or FEMA bashing. It is about being dissatisfied with mediocracy and incompetence.

Jack:"CNN, CBS, MS... (Below threshold)

Jack:

"CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOXNEWS could get in there"

They were already there, for the most part. Shep Smith was interviewing people in the French Quarter on Sunday (and got at least one famous quote).

The one or two that didn't have trucks in there on Sunday took the best part of two days to get in, and that was with one satellite truck.

Major relief convoys had to wait for the bridges leading into the city to be inspected - you don't want to lose your *one* real route in because some pilings got washed out.

Meanwhile, the convoys were coming in and getting things ready 60 or so miles down the road.

That's why, when things started to happen, they pretty much happened all at once. This is the biggest example of how the Feds did a great job, because if they had truly screwed up, there would have been no supplies to hand out to the survivors *or* the Guard troops.

Jack,"All of us pa... (Below threshold)

Jack,

"All of us pay tax dollars for FEMA and DHS. Billions and billions of tax dollars."

...and the vast majority of those bilions and billions come right back. FEMA's biggest job is to write checks, not to pull people out of collapsed buildings.

Their total staffing is only 2500 people, at a handful of locations, and most of what they do is give out money to individuals, states, and cities.

If you want FEMA to handle all of the disasters in the US directly, get ready for that "billions and billions" to turn into "trillions and trillions."

You have a huge problem: you're complaining about an agency that you know almost nothing about, and what you do know is wrong.

I apologize for spreading u... (Below threshold)
andrew:

I apologize for spreading unsubstantiated stories about the levees and the deferral of the Red Cross.

There are inconsistent reports coming out of Louisiana, and I am no genius.

But I can't believe that, given all logistical obstacles, the federal response was the best that we should reasonably expect. I understand the scale and scope of the relief effort, and my problem is not with its execution- there is too little information to reach a firm conclusion. My problem is with its sluggishness- the federal government has consistently lagged behind in a tangle of bureaucratic red tape.

Here's a paragraph from the Times-Picayune:

http://www.nola.com/hurricane/t-p/katrina.ssf?/hurricane/katrina/stories/083005catastrophic.html

A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new "hurricane proof" Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north. The breach sent a churning sea of water from Lake Pontchartrain coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east.

And here's Michael Chertoff on Meet The Press
(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9179790/)

It was on Tuesday that the levee--may have been overnight Monday to Tuesday--that the levee started to break. And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap and that essentially the lake was going to start to drain into the city.

The local government failed first, but Michael Chertoff was 24 hours behind in his knowledge of the situation on the ground. Is that the best we can do?


And here's an excerpt from Newsweek about the federal response (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9179587/page/5/):

Washington, too, was slow to react to the crisis. The Pentagon, under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was reluctant for the military to take a lead role in disaster relief, a job traditionally performed by FEMA and by the National Guard, which is commanded by state governors. President Bush could have "federalized" the National Guard in an instant. That's what his father, President George H.W. Bush, did after the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Back then, the Justice Department sent Robert Mueller, a jut-jawed ex-Marine (who is now FBI director), to take charge, showing, in effect, that the cavalry had arrived. FEMA's current head, Michael Brown, has appeared over his head and even a little clueless in news interviews. He is far from the sort of take-charge presence New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani conveyed after 9/11.

Up to now, the Bush administration has not hesitated to sweep aside the opinions of lawyers on such matters as prisoners' rights. But after Katrina, a strange paralysis set in. For days, Bush's top advisers argued over legal niceties about who was in charge, according to three White House officials who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. Beginning early in the week, Justice Department lawyers presented arguments for federalizing the Guard, but Defense Department lawyers fretted about untrained 19-year-olds trying to enforce local laws, according to a senior law-enforcement official who requested anonymity citing the delicate nature of the discussions.

Is that the best we can do? Days of internal legal handwringing and debate? There was an alarming lack of leadership at EVERY level.

And as for the idea that the media has concentrated on the most densely populated area in the state while ignoring the broader rescue effort, here's what happened in southeastern Louisiana (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/08/katrina.forgottentown.ap/index.html):

More than a week since Hurricane Katrina cut its swath along the Gulf Coast, word is only now starting to trickle out from this outlying area of some 66,000 people on Louisiana's southeastern edge.

What's said is filled with anger -- residents feeling even more abandoned than hard-hit New Orleans -- and disbelief.

"If you dropped a bomb on this place, it couldn't be any worse than this," said Ron Silva, a district fire chief in St. Bernard Parish. "It's Day 8, guys. Everything was diverted first to New Orleans, we understand that. But do you realize we got 18 to 20 feet of water from the storm, and we've still got 7 to 8 feet of water?"


Robert,

If the levee hadn't broken, we wouldn't be having this discussion. New Orleans' plans would have been sufficient. FEMA's aid would have been sufficient. But when the levee broke, this ceased to be a "normal" catastrophe. The normal responses ceased to be enough. No one stepped up to the plate. Since the local officials and responders were themselves victimized and overwhelmed by the levee breach (e.g. disrupted communications), I place a somewhat larger proportion of the blame on the federal government and on our president.

Andrew,And it was ... (Below threshold)
rayabacus:

Andrew,

And it was midday Tuesday that I became aware of the fact that there was no possibility of plugging the gap

I see no problem with this statement. How long do you think it would take engineers to inspect the breach, decide on a course of action and at least try some remedy before declaring that the breach cannot be plugged. You're conflating the actual breach with the realization that it could not be fixed.

President Bush could have "federalized" the National Guard in an instant. That's what his father, President George H.W. Bush, did after the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

Bush I federalized the Nat'l Guard legally by having the Gov of CA sign off. The President has immense powers, however since no Federal laws were being broken, he had no legal authority to take over the Guard. And how do you know that what that article is reporting is accurate? No one is on record; there are unnamed sources. Please note that Gov Blanco still has control and command of the Nat'l Guard, as she has all along.

What's said is filled with anger -- residents feeling even more abandoned than hard-hit New Orleans -- and disbelief

Two things regarding this. How many lives are in danger here as compared to the ongoing disaster in NO? I don't know; secondly, whatever complaint they have, at this point, it needs to be directed at their local authorities and then the State. There are not infinite resources. Resources are allocated, obviously by the greater need. You need to remember that the area hit was larger than Great Britain.

Since the local officials and responders were themselves victimized and overwhelmed by the levee breach (e.g. disrupted communications), I place a somewhat larger proportion of the blame on the federal government and on our president.

You still do not understand. This whole travesty could have been mitigated simply by the City and the State following their own written Emergency Plan( The one that they submitted to FEMA, telling FEMA what they were going to do in just this circumstance) Don't you think that FEMA pulled their copy of NO & LA's plan to review it before the storm hit? FEMA had expectations that the City & State would follow their own approved plan. Not only did they have expectations, they counted on it.

FEMA had 23 complete units in the area, safely away from the storm, about 5 or 6 hours away. These units had medical personnel, tents, communications, food and water. They were in NOLA within 1/2 day.

FEMA delivered 7 trailers of food and water to the Superdome on the 29th and delivered 7 trailerloads on the 30th. The Gov ordered the Nat'l Guard to not allow any additional supplies in to those people. They turned the Red Cross away.

The people that bear responsibility for this tragedy - the exasperated portion of it- is Mayor Nagin and Gov Blanco. All they had to do is keep their compact with their people and FEMA. The question, or one of them, should be, "What did they do with the Federal money they received to train the Emergency Staff and implement the program?

As far as I can tell, FEMA has performed admirably. Those that hate Bush find it convenient to judge the Administration prior to having all of the facts. There have been several memes that have been disputed and I'm sure you will find many more in the days ahead. I am content to let the recovery continue and then analyze the performance of FEMA after I have all of the information. You know, stuff like who was calling the shots, what was the communications like, what information was available to who, and when.

Hmmmm.One thing I'... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

One thing I'd like to add.

There are serious restrictions on what the President may do within America's borders. These safeguards are necessary to prevent the kind of crazy-ass nonsense that plagues many other nations.

But let's not forget that all of this, ALL of this, could have been averted if Gov Blanco had simply requested the President to take over the situation in New Orleans.

If she had done so then the President would have had clear authority to send in federal troops to restore law and order. The President would have been able to operate without many of the existing restrictions to resupply New Orleans and all the other affected areas.

Even now there are soldiers fromt he 82nd Airborne division that *must* have either a LA National Guardsman *or* a NOPD cop with them because they do not have the authority to make arrests. This is why Maj. Gen. Honore keeps talking about supporting the NOPD and that, as long as there was one single NOPD cop in charge, the National Guard would be in "support" of the NOPD.

It has to do with legal restrictions on federal military units conducting law enforcement activities under the Posse Comitatus Act. This Act, and the Stafford Act, covers just about all the bases and restricts the President, and FEMA, to responding to requests made by the Gov, but prevents them from interfering if that Gov turns out to be a complete fruitcake.

Blame Bush? How? As long as Gov Blanco both refused to hand over the situation AND refused to request additional help, Bush couldn't do anything. Remember it wasn't until Wednesday afternoon that Gov Blanco asked other govenors, not the President, for a loan of their National Guard units.

The reason why the current 40,000 soldiers took until Friday to get to New Orleans is because Blanco didn't ask for them until Wednesday afternoon.

But hey, if it makes you happier to think Bush and FEMA is responsible, you go right ahead.

[email protected] Jack... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

@ Jack

"FEMA should have COOPERATED with local and state officials instead of insisting on taking over. This was an uneccessary, time-wasting attempt at a power grab."

When did this happen? Do you have proof of this allegation?

Got a link?

Actually Andrew, you've alm... (Below threshold)
Robert Modean:

Actually Andrew, you've almost got it right - if the Evacuation Plan for New Orleans had been followed the levee breach would have been irrelevant and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

The fact is that the Evacuation Plan for New Orleans was NOT followed. The whole system is based on EVERYONE doing what they say they are going to do, FEMA planned it's response around the understanding that the Evacuation Plan for SE Louisiana would be followed by ALL of the affected Parishes. They counted on Governor being prepared to bring all of Louisiana's resources (the LA Guard) to bear immediately. So when the two most populous Parishes chose not to do so, FEMA's response was bound to be inadequate to meet their immediate needs. Please explain to me how their failure to execute the plan is FEMA and the President’s fault, I’m really looking forward to that answer.

Also, when the Mayor and Governor chose to ignore the looting they only exacerbated the problem. It’s Disaster Management 101 – preserving order preserves life. Relief workers jobs are tough enough, looting makes them that much tougher in that it encourages violence and makes an already chaotic atmosphere even worse. Relief workers cannot be expected to do their jobs in a war zone, when they attempt to do so they become victims themselves. While understandable from a humanitarian standpoint the Mayor’s and Governor’s decisions to ignore the looting made things much worse. IIRC the President was lampooned and vilified by the left for voicing the opinion that the looters should be dealt with harshly and order restored immediately. Well guess what, he was right and his critics were wrong, but I don’t expect you to credit him with any right decisions – that’s not your intent. Your intent is to exculpate the State and Local officials and place the burden of failure squarely on the President’s shoulders which is exactly where it doesn’t belong.

Robert,I don't thi... (Below threshold)
andrew:

Robert,

I don't think I've ever exculpated state and local officials, and I don't place the burden of failure solely on the president's shoulders. I don't think I ever stated the matter that baldly. I don't have any goal except to participate in the attempt to uncover and distill exactly what happened and what went wrong. We are human beings who can be affected by prejudice & emotional bias, so I appreciate the extent to which, hopefully, we can all keep each other honest.

Having read the Louisiana evacuation plan, it's not clear to me exactly how the state failed to execute it, I hope you can point me in the right direction.

It is clear that the plan was flawed- its authors massively underestimated the number of people who would be unwilling or unable to evacuate the city, and failed to provide sufficient transportation for them. That was the first and most important mistake, although again, had the levees held, it would not have been an issue. Equally sad (and/or unforgivable) that the evacuation plan nods at but does not plan for the "failure" of the levees.

I never said that "their failure to execute the plan is FEMA and the President's fault." But the plan failed. That's the real world. Sometimes the plan fails. What happened then? It's for the aftermath of the underevacuation and the levee breach that I hold all levels of government responsible. No one could take charge? No one could lead? No one could adjust on the fly? Mayor Nagin ranted impotently, Governor Blanco floundered, Brown and Chertoff were in over their heads (whether they screwed up or too much was expected of FEMA/DHS is a matter for debate), and President Bush waffled on whether to federalize the relief effort.


The media have not illuminated exactly what communications took place between the local, state and federal levels. There are conflicting reports, for example, on whether mandatory evacuation came because of the "urging" of President Bush, or if that urging arrived by telephone just five minutes before Nagin/Blanco were going to call for mandatory evacuation at a press conference.

And two early reports from a "senior Bush official" in the Washington Post and Newsweek claimed that Governor Blanco had not declared a state of emergency even on Saturday, September 3, when in fact she had done so on Friday, August 26. The Post has since printed a correction, Newsweek has not.

There is also debate as to what authority to act the federal government possessed, based on interpretations of the various actions that Governor Blanco DID take (her declaration of emergency), Posse Comitatus, the Stafford Act. And FEMA's mission statement leaves room for misinterpretation/overoptimism:

FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident.

Why might we not have more clarity and certainty on these issues?

I. Maybe there were specific, boneheaded screw-ups (e.g. Blanco refusing to sign over control, or the federal government failing to act when it could have) and everyone involved is covering his or her ass.
II. Maybe no one, at any level of government, had clarity and certainty on these issues.

Neither explanation is an excuse.

I would ask, too, in a friendly, sensible, centrist, non-partisan way-

What do you consider to be the "right decisions" Bush has made? I'll grant you his blanket condemnation of the looting, at least on the grounds that any decision is better than none. Again, I am not trying to bait anyone, I don't intend to exculpate anyone, nor to place blame on those who do not deserve it.

So many things one could re... (Below threshold)
Jack:

So many things one could respond to. But the bottom line is that all the problems you and I are talking about should have been worked out in advance.

The time for figuring out how FEMA, state, and local authorities will work together is not AFTER the levee breaks.

This country needs a national emergency management agency that works with local and state officials to figure this stuff out before hand. And the emphasis of their work should be on HELPING people, not CONTROLLING people. (FEMA has gone so far down the rabbit hole of an obsession with police-state tactics, they may not be recoverable.)

Whether that federal entity is within DHS or independent or at the Pentagon, it needs to exist and it needs to be accountable.

Rather than looking at the situation for blame purposes, what if we look for lessons learned.

Lesson 1, in the moment, all politicians and government department heads will be under extreme stress and chaos, therefore, chains of command must be set up in advance.

Lesson 2, gigantic resources need to be directed toward instant installation of communications systems. With communications everyone can do their job, citizens can get accurate, consistent info, tragedies can be averted.

Lesson 3, once a city is 80% below water, they are going to need military assistance.

Lesson 4, figure out a way to work volunteer responders into your plan. They are going to show up, use them.

Lesson 5, did I mention communications?

Bonus lesson 6, a mayor cannot evacuate a city. They need external resources and they need somewhere to send the people they are evacuating. You can't just put people on a bus and say "drive north". You need state, regional, and federal cooperation to evacuate a city.

Jack and Andrew:Ju... (Below threshold)
epador:

Jack and Andrew:

Just what are your credentials and sources as disaster response experts? If you are actually employed as such, you need to find a new vocation. If you aren't, then stick with whatever you are experts about [I'll leave that to everyone else's imagination].

Andrew,I maintain ... (Below threshold)
Robert Modean:

Andrew,

I maintain you've attempted to exculpate the State and Local officials because you every criticism has focused on FEMA and the President. When you respond to every argument with a "Yes, but..." answer you are making excuses to maintain the focus on FEMA and the President. IMO that's not wrong, but let's not attempt to hide behind the "centrist" and "non-partisan" masks when you've exhibited no intent of acting like either.

With regard to the SE Louisiana Evacuation Plan, if you look on page 13 (II-2, Assumptions, bullet 5):

The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.

Also on page 16 (III-1, Concept of Operations, 1.a.7&8):

7. Local transportation resources should be marshaled and public transportation plans implemented as needed.

8. Announce the location of staging areas for people who need transportation. Public transportation will concentrate on moving people from the staging areas to safety in host parishes with priority given to people with special needs.

The plan doesn't underestimate the number of people that might need assistance in evacuation, it clearly states that there will be a population of people and details how to handle that situation. This is a comprehensive plan to effect an evacuation, yet the Mayor's failure to utilize the nearly 450 buses that were available to him between the NORTA and School motor pools to evacuate the poor and elderly in the 24 hours before the hurricane hit is a clear failure to execute the plan.

When you say, "...the plan failed. That's the real world." that's the most honest statement I've heard any critic make yet, and I laud you for it. It's a perfectly valid argument and one to which I can only answer, we don't know the plan failed because we've never had a chance to see it fully implemented.

Re: leadership in the aftermath of the levee breach: you have on-site officials, the Mayor and the city DHS Emergency Operations Officer; you have State officials like the Governor, the State Director of DHS and the State Coordinator of Emergency Operations - where were they in all this? There was an absolute failure of leadership at the Local and State level in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, and with each failure the effects snow-balled. Why did the Governor delay in activating the LA Guard, why did she not step in and display any leadership at all? She is directly responsible to her state and the citizens of those two Parishes, and she failed them utterly.

The President didn't waffle in contemplating the federalization of relief efforts, rather he actively solicited the Governor to allow the relief efforts to be federalized. She refused. When senior Administration officials are saying Blanco didn't declare a state of emergency, that's what they're talking. The state of emergency she declared on the 26th was pursuant to her seeking Federal relief under the Stafford Act of 1988, btw - she only requested $9 million dollars in that declaration. A specific declaration of a state of emergency that requests Federal takeover is required before the Federal Government can move in. In retrospect I wish Bush had used the Insurrection Act, specifically §331 and §333, to usurp her authority but that would have been an incredibly audacious course of action and I can only imagine the caterwauling on the left if he'd done so.
.
Re: those conflicting reports, they're not so conflicting. Governor Blanco had a news conference with the mayor at her side and she said that President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation. Now the President’s call came just prior to the news conference and occurred after the decision had already been made to evacuate areas prone to flooding, but he wasn't aware of that. It shows prescience and leadership that he called to urge the Governor and Mayor to call for a mandatory evacuation.

Re: the debate as to what authority to act the federal government possessed, this debate is being held primarily among those who have little or no experience in working with the Federal Government in general and FEMA in particular. Having done relief work for the last twelve years as a volunteer coordinator for my State EMA and even FEMA, the Stafford Act is a straight jacket on FEMA and it was designed that way by members of both parties who were afraid of what FEMA could do if it were unleashed. Therein lied the problem.

Re: Bush's "right decisions", you've been pretty frank and unrelenting in trying to affix blame to him for things, so give him his due when he's done something right - if you're intent is to actually keep this in a friendly, sensible, centrist, and non-partisan way. Speaking of which here are the three I'm most impressed with:

His decision to declare the area of the Gulf Coast a federal disaster area in advance of the hurricane, thus enabling the pre-positioning of relief supplies and personnel, warrants praise.
His decision to condemn the looting and announce his expectation that the restoration of order would be a priority warrants more than a back handed compliment.
His attempt to assume control of the relief efforts by encouraging the Governor to request the Federal Government take over is laudable.

Now let me ask you what you consider to be the "right decisions" Bush has made? If you can't come up with any you're not being honest with yourself.

Jack,Lesson 4, ... (Below threshold)
Robert Modean:

Jack,

Lesson 4, figure out a way to work volunteer responders into your plan. They are going to show up, use them.

If you actually knew anything about FEMA or how it works, you'd know that it works intimately with a variety of volunteer organizations, among them are:

American Red Cross, The Adventist Community Services, Catholic Charities USA Disaster Response, Christian Disaster Response, The Church World Service Disaster Response, The Lutheran Disaster Response, Mennonite Disaster Services, The National Emergency Response Team, REACT International, The Salvation Army, The Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, The United States Service Command, and The Volunteers of America

And that's just the highlights.

Robert,When I wrot... (Below threshold)
andrew:

Robert,

When I wrote

Mayor Nagin ranted impotently, Governor Blanco floundered, Brown and Chertoff were in over their heads (whether they screwed up or too much was expected of FEMA/DHS is a matter for debate), and President Bush waffled on whether to federalize the relief effort.

Was I exculpating state and local officials then?

If my side of the debate has focused attention on the potential failures of FEMA/Bush, that's because, well, I have no doubt that Nagin and Blanco were criminally irresponsible, and there is, rightly, no doubt of that on this blog. But there is uncertainty (or should be) about the extent to which the federal government screwed up. I'm interested in discussing that, and I benefit much more from communicating with informed posters here than I would from sitting down for lunch with Cindy Sheehan.


Mayor Nagin failed. He made a tragic error in judgment. Again, if not for the levee failure this point would be moot. And, yes, if not for Nagin's mistake, the levee failure would be moot.

But the initial plans did fail. Again, no one stepped up. Governor Blanco failed. There was "an absolute failure of leadership at the Local and State level", I am in complete agreement.

Thank you for the clarification on the nature of the governor's declaration of emergency. Gov. Blanco's actions are inexplicable, at least until more information becomes available. Possibly after that. I will, however, hold the federal government as responsible as the governor if it is revealed that miscommunication between state/federal officials was the problem.

As for Bush's right decisions- I won't argue with the three you name as "right" decisions, and I'll even concede something else: Bush made no "bad" or "wrong" decisions (unless I pick on him for sentimental or symbolic reasons, for actions I find clumsy and personally distasteful but which I will not brand as bad policy).

But here's the problem:

Yes, George Bush made some "right decisions." Right, but not great. Competent, but not inspired. I will acknowledge those decisions, but I will not praise them.

Let's say you're elected president. A Category 5 hurricane is headed toward a coastal city. You preemptively declare that region as a federal disaster area. Was that a tough call? Does it warrant praise? Or was it the obvious move?

No one showed strong leadership, at any level. If people died because government officials at every level were handcuffed by an inflexible adherence to the letter of the law, that is a failure of government. If people died because Governor Blanco couldn't commit to a federalized relief effort, that is a failure of government. If no one sufficiently or clearly explained to Governor Blanco what was being demanded of her, and why, that is a failure of government.

At the same time, I understand and respect the administration's willingness to honor legal principle and precedent (though not the concern over political fallout). Right now, there's too little information about what actually happened in New Orleans to pass final judgment. If the death toll is lower than many have feared, if reports indicate that the "rampant lawlessness" was so great that the influx of armed troops would have been a catastrophe- then Bush's decision will look like a necessary and wise one and I will commend him for the bravery and integrity of it.

But my fear, still, is that the federal government overrated the level of criminal chaos in New Orleans and overestimated the degree of violent resistance they would encounter- such that critical relief was needlessly delayed. I guess time will tell.

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters is on... (Below threshold)
Jack:

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters is on Fox right now saying the same things I've been posting here.

Look, I voted for Bush. I take no pleasure in watching him make a mess of things. But to my mind he is way too cavalier in the way he manages. You cannot delegate EVERYTHING as President. And when he refuses to admit it when things go wrong which just loses him credibility as a leader.

Knee-jerk defense of everything the administration does is not doing this country any favors. Some of you need to get comfortable with the fact that the Bush/Cheney/Rove machine is not infallible. They are going to make mistakes. If they are real men they will take responsibility for them and try to change course.

Macho posturing is the first sign of poor leadership. Some problems are so big you can't spin or attack your way out of them.

Do your country a favor and stop attacking people who the administration to improve.

(yes I know my spelling sux, that's what editors are for.)

Robert,Yes, of cou... (Below threshold)
Jack:

Robert,

Yes, of course I know FEMA works with a wide variety of organizations. But none of the groups you cited are first responders (firefighters, cops, doctors, paramedics, etc.)

There are way too many stories of firefighters sitting around with a truck, resources, supplies, and no one to coordinate them.

Lesson learned: get better at coordinating volunteer first responders.




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