POLICY/POLITICS: Blame for Katrina–enough to go around but it’s FEMA in the lead, with UPDATE

With all the BSing that’s gone on from the Administration about what went wrong and finger pointing, there is clearly much blame to go around. I’m impressed that New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin went ballistic when nothing was happening last Thursday night, but there are reasonable questions being asked of him by the right wing bloggers about why he didn’t or couldn’t use the city’s municipal and school buses to evacuate people in advance of the Hurricane or after it (I assume that after it he didn’t have anyone to drive the buses). Not that of course those questions are being asked in a particularly nice way, but I won’t discuss my last post or Nagin’s ethnicity.

However, even if there is local and state blame, that doesn’t absolve the Bush Administration for two reasons.  The first one is that there is a clear line of command in these situations, and this comes straight from Bush’s mouth on August 28, the Thursday before the storm.

Bushdisaster9kr THE PRESIDENT: This morning I spoke with FEMA Undersecretary Mike Brown and emergency management teams not only at the federal level but at the state level about the — Hurricane Katrina. I’ve also spoken to Governor Blanco of Louisiana, Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Bush of Florida, and Governor Riley of Alabama. I want to thank all the folks at the federal level and the state level and the local level who have taken this storm seriously. I appreciate the efforts of the governors to prepare their citizenry for this upcoming storm. 

Yesterday, I signed a disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana, and this morning I signed a disaster declaration for the state of Mississippi. These declarations will allow federal agencies to coordinate all disaster relief efforts with state and local officials. We will do everything in our power to help the people in the communities affected by this storm.

In addition here’s an article which basically shows that even within all the bureaucratic BS going on, the Federal government is in charge in a disaster situation, and FEMA has the ability to do basically what it likes–which those of you hooked on The X-Files know has always been the case (although alien takeovers weren’t the issue last week)

But the main point is that, whatever the bureaucratic BS, a real leader would have got those buses into New Orleans and got the people out by Wednesday at least. That would have to be a Federal effort rounding up a few hundred buses in neighboring cities and getting them into New Orleans, while setting up tent cities to deal with the volunteers. It was this lack of action after the flood between Tuesday night and Friday morning that is the really criminal part, and even if the locals had screwed up, that does not mean that the Federal government is absolved of blame. We needed Presidential leadership, and we got little boy lost — again.

And as for health care, that goes for the evacuation of the hospitals too. It’s clear that that ended up being largely a private effort (and well down to HCA’s management which really stepped up in the crisis when it realized that the Feds weren’t helping.  Perhaps we should have completely for-profit private health care organizations so that all rescue efforts can be run out of Nashville! But if that’s not going to happen, and if every victim isn’t going to be in a hospital — as is clearly the case — then we have to depend on the Federal government.  After all this is the same Federal government that’ll move heaven and earth to make sure the sick people don’t smoke pot.

UPDATE: Brown was basically fired this afternoon–one week after Bush said "Brownie, you’re doing a hell of a job".  Odd.  Usually these incompetents get awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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